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3 Ways Cascading Homophobia Hurts Pay Equality

How cascading homophobia affects the LGBT pay gap

Despite the Supreme Court ruling in favor of LGBTQ job protections, homophobia in the workplace didn’t disappear. Companies big and small still suffer from cascading homophobia, which hits our community in the pocketbook. Here’s how we can change that.

Hear more about cascading homophobia on this Queer Money®:

How cascading homophobia’s preventing equality

On this episode of Queer Money®, I’m introducing the idea of cascading homophobia and explaining how it affects the LGBT pay gap. I share the formal definition of homophobia, describing how decision-makers in a company who are not homophobic themselves may allow their decisions to be influenced by senior leaders who are.

I go on to offer an example of cascading homophobia that John and I experienced working at Charles Schwab when we served as co-chairs of the company’s LGBT Employee Resource Group. Listen in to understand how cascading homophobia undermines our ability to earn more and learn the 3 things we can do to minimize (and eventually eliminate) cascading homophobia in the workplace.


Topics covered about cascading homophobia

The formal definition of homophobia

  • Negative attitudes or feelings toward homosexuality
  • Contempt or prejudice based on fear and ignorance

The definition of cascading homophobia

  • Decision-maker chooses ‘path of least resistance’
  • Influenced by the homophobia of senior leadership

The 3 ways cascading homophobia hurts earning-power

1. Maintenance of the Pink Ceiling

Cascading homophobia keeps the pink ceiling in place that prevents LGBTQ workers from moving up through the ranks of managers, directors, VPs, managing partners and higher. It limits upward mobility in wages, total compensation and ownership.

An example of this effect of cascading homophobia is a newer attorney being passed up for promotions or getting an invitation to become a firm partner because existing partners are known to be homophobic or regularly demean members of the community.

2. Missed opportunities to shine

From not being invited to happy hours with the boss to not being given high-profile projects, Cascading homophobia takes opportunities off the table for LGBTQ workers.

An example of this effect of cascading homophobia is an individual consistently being passed over for highly visible projects (to those who are known to be homophobic) or opportunities like leading or managing teams, being mentored or contributing to a diversity of thought.

3. Systemic suppression of skills

The country’s talking a lot about systemic oppression lately, and LGBTQ workers have too much experience with that. The more different workers look and live from the cis, straight, white American man with a wife and kids, the harder it is – even today – to get ahead.

An example of this effect of cascading homophobia is when neither upward nor lateral moves are being encouraged, made available or denied, keeps the individual from learning new skills such as management or fast-growing areas of the company, which locks the individual into consistent and eroding income.

How to minimize or eliminate cascading homophobia

1. Promote community via LGBT business or affinity group

Work with your company’s LGBTQ business resource/affinity group to continually promote queer folks and their work as valuable to the company.

2. Share the idea of cascading homophobia with allies

Share the idea of cascading homophobia with our allies so that they are aware of it and how they can highlight the value of diversity and diminish vocalized homophobia or harassing comments/jokes.

3. Reward companies that support the community

Reward and talk about companies that have clear leadership that’s LGBTQ and that have leaders that vocalize their appreciation for and promote LGBTQ folks.

Vote with your pink dollars. Sharing or thanking companies that support the community is one the best ways to keep progress moving in our direction at the corporate level.


Resources for cascading homophobia


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