QueerTech report finds change is lagging for 2SLGBTQIA+ tech workers in Canada

QueerTech Report
Fewer than 40 percent of respondents feel that 2SLGBTQIA+ employees are “consistently treated with respect.”

While more than a third of non-queer folks believe there has been progress for 2SLGBTQIA+ employees at Canadian tech companies, their 2SLGBTQIA+ colleagues aren’t quite feeling the same level of optimism.

This is one of many concerning findings in a new study published by Montréal-based non-profit QueerTech. The report features a survey and interviews with over 250 Canadian tech workers, including a representative group of 30 individuals who identify as members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

“A homogenous, exclusive identity is not the legacy we want to leave and hand over to the next generation of leaders.”

The survey found that of the respondents who said they have been targeted at work, 35 percent said the harrassment was due to to their sexual orientation, while a staggering 56 percent said they have received similar treatment due to their gender. Less than 40 percent of all survey respondents feel that 2SLGBTQIA+ employees are “consistently treated with respect.”

This culture of fear has plagued the industry for some time. QueerTech’s report cited a 2016 survey finding from Telus that 57 percent of 2SLGBTQIA+ respondents are not “fully out” at work, and over one-fifth said they are worried about a hostile work environment.

These issues aren’t confined to the workplace; they often arise even before individuals secure a position. QueerTech found that just 14 percent of respondents believe that being a part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is a benefit to acquiring employment. Over 35 percent of respondents said they have experienced some kind of discrimination during at least one job interview.

These findings are in line with another survey completed by the Kapor Center for Social Impact for QueerTech, that found that 15 percent of LGBTQ2S+ people in Canada’s tech sector feel their career opportunities are limited because of their identity.

This new report surfaced a disparity between what queer and non-queer individuals think about how the needle has moved for 2SLGBTQIA+ tech workers. While over a third of non-queer individuals found the atmosphere for 2SLGBTQIA+ employees was improving significantly at work, less than a quarter of queer individuals thought the same.

RELATED: QueerTech acquires accelerator Gradient Spaces to support more 2SLGBTQ+ tech workers

According to the report,  70 percent of respondents’ workplaces have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in place, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing much. Less than a quarter (24 percent) of respondents found their workplaces’ DEI initiatives effective.

QueerTech’s latest report sheds new light on a persistent challenge in the tech industry, both in Canada and around the world: LGBTQ2S+ individuals encounter systemic hostility and discrimination throughout the hiring process and in the workplace that impede their career development.

In its discussions with participants, QueerTech identified a few recurring themes. Beyond refining hiring and onboarding practices, several respondents stressed the importance of leadership-driven change. According to the report, respondents believe that company leaders should shoulder the majority of the responsibility for creating equitable and inclusive workplaces.

There was also a strong call for authentic representation of Queer and BIPOC individuals in leadership positions, and as mentors and role models, and “not just having a token member in the boardroom,” as one anonymized respondent noted.

Other participants emphasized the need to promote the profit-driven benefits of diversity, ensuring that companies recognize the value of recruiting underrepresented individuals to enhance their profitability—not just for optics.

“Canada’s technology sector is largely composed of incredibly talented, innovative and passionate leaders,” QueerTech’s report noted. “Yet, the industry will only ever be as strong as the collective identity we all contribute to. A homogenous, exclusive identity is not the legacy we want to leave and hand over to the next generation of leaders.”

Feature image courtesy of Unsplash.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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