LGBTQ individuals and allies at the University gathered Tuesday to discuss personal and public issues facing LGBTQ graduate students searching for employment.
The event was sponsored by Rackham Graduate School Out in Public, a student organization at the Ford School of Public Policy that seeks to facilitate discussion and provide support for LGBTQ issues.
Katie Dunn, a career counselor in the School of Information, discussed how to find organizations with inclusive cultures. Dunn also addressed legal questions about discrimination in the workplace — a challenge many LGBTQ individuals face when looking for employment.
Dunn said 21 states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 18 of them also have protections for gender identity. Michigan currently does not employ any of those protections.
An executive order signed in 2004 by former Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for public employees.
Two proposed amendments to include protection of sexual orientation in Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act — which prohibits discrimination in the workplace, public places and housing markets — failed to pass a House committee last December.
In his State of the State address earlier this month, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder called for renewed debate on the issue.
“If you are working for a private company in Michigan, it is perfectly legal for that company to fire you based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” Dunn said. “There is really no legal recourse for you to take.”
Following the presentation, attendees and panelists discussed issues of self-presentation, workplace culture and personal experiences as an LGBTQ person navigating the job-search process.
The discussion explored the extent to which an individual should reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity during the job-search process and in the workplace.
Dunn said there is no right answer as to whether one should disclose sexual orientation or gender identity in a resume or during an interview. She emphasized that what feels comfortable and authentic varies on an individual basis.
Kristi Gainey, an intern coordinator for Thomson Reuters who identifies as a straight ally to LGBTQ persons, said that if someone has leadership experience in LGBTQ-related activities, it should be included in his or her resume.
“You don’t want to sell yourself short by excluding things that show you bring value,” Gainey said.
Panelist Jonathan Moore, a University alum and current special assistant to the assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said he does not try to hide his sexual orientation on his resume and addresses the issue if it comes up in interviews. For example, he decided to include that he chaired the Out in Public organization.
“I really don’t want to have to dance around that issue, so I just put it on paper and there it is,” he said. “You’ll get to know me in my interview and hopefully they’ll see that I’m more than that but it’s all a part of who I am and what I bring to the table.”
He said he hopes employers evaluate him based on his skills, not his identification as a gay male.
Students also discussed how to gauge whether potential employers are inclusive of LGBTQ individuals.
Gainey said job seekers should research whether a company’s anti-discrimination policies include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as if benefits are available for transgender individuals and those in same-sex partnerships.
Cortney Turner, a University assistant research scientist and a panelist at the event, said a company might be inclusive if potential employers value diversity as an important aspect of the company’s culture.
Panelists also discussed how to find supportive mentors and peers who identify as LGBTQ or are allies, and how to address hostility, stereotyping and possible discrimination in the workplace.
“Ultimately, being gay or lesbian will be a non-issue,” said David Michener, a panelist and associate curator at the University’s Matthei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. “That’s the society we are working towards.”
Clarification: Moore said he does not shy from listing activities on his resume that could point to his sexual orientation. A previous version of this article incorrectly described this practice.