It Is Difficult to Determine the Size of the LGBT Population

Stigma and methodological barriers make it difficult to get an accurate count of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) population.1 The following statistics are the best estimates from surveys around the world.

  • In Canada, 1.7% of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 59 are gay or lesbian, and an additional 1.3% are bisexual.2
  • In Japan, 5.9% of the population is LGBT.3
  • In the United Kingdom, 2.0% are LGB.4
  • In the United States, 4.5% are LGBT.5
Governments Often Measure Only Same-Sex Couples

Because it can be very difficult to measure the LGBT population, some surveys measure the number of those in same-sex relationships.6 The following percentages are the best estimates from such surveys around the world.

  • In Australia, 0.9% of all couples are same-sex couples.7
  • In Canada, 0.9% of all couples are same-sex couples.8
  • In Germany, 0.5% of all couples are same-sex cohabitating couples.9
  • In the United States, 1.4% of all couple households are same-sex couple households.10


Most Countries and States Do Not Provide Legal Protections for LGBT Employees

Section 377 of India’s penal code, a colonial-era law, criminalizes same-sex relations;11countries cannot protect LGBT people in the workplace when laws like this exist.

Seventy-two countries prohibit discrimination in employment because of sexual orientation, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.12

  • There is no federal law protecting the rights of employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the United States.13
    • There is no state-level protection for sexual orientation in 28 of the 50 US states.14 This means employees can be fired for being LGB.
    • There is no state-level gender identity protection in 30 of the 50 US states.15 Employees can be fired for being transgender.
  • In June 2017, the Canadian government amended the Human Rights Act to outlaw employment discrimination based on gender identity and expression.16
Today, More Fortune 500 Companies Offer Benefits to Their LGBT Employees

As of 2017, 91% of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation. Eighty-three percent have non-discrimination policies that include gender identity. Many companies also provide other benefits:17

  • 60% include domestic partner benefits.
  • 58% include transgender-inclusive benefits.
However, Few Companies Offer LGBT-Inclusive Family Leave

Only 21% of US companies offer paid family leave; 23% offer paid adoption leave and just 15% offer paid foster child leave.18

The LGBT community also has caregiving responsibilities beyond the immediate family. More than half (58%) of LGBTQ employees expect to be a caregiver for at least one member of their “chosen family.”19

LGBT Employees Often Face Hostility in the Workplace

One-fifth (20%) of LGBTQ Americans has experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs.20

  • LGBTQ people of color (32%) are more likely to experience this type of discrimination than white LGBTQ people (13%).21
  • 22% of LGBTQ Americans have not been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers.22

Transgender workers are especially vulnerable to discrimination. Over a quarter (27%) of the transgender population said they were not hired, were fired, or were not promoted in 2015 due to their gender identity or expression.23

  • 80% of the transgender population who were employed in 2015 experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job, or took steps to avoid it.24

Offensive jokes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are a form of harassment.25

  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of LGBT employees heard lesbian and gay jokes at work, while 43% heard bisexual jokes and 40% heard transgender jokes.26
Fear Prevents LGBT Employees From Bringing Their Full Selves To Work

Nearly three quarters (70%) of non-LGBT employees believe it is “unprofessional” to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.27

LGBT people often cover or downplay aspects of their authentic selves (e.g., hiding personal relationships, changing the way they dress or speak) in order to avoid discrimination.28

When applying for jobs, LGBT people often conceal information about their sexual orientation or gender identity from their résumés in order to avoid bias or discrimination—especially people of color (12%), people with disabilities (15.5%), and young people between 18 and 24 years old (18.7%).29

Talented Employees Leave Workplaces Where They Don’t Feel Welcome

Among those who left US technology companies, LGBT employees were more likely to report experiencing bullying and public humiliation and embarrassment than their non-LGBT counterparts.30

Buying Power

LGBT Consumers Have a High Discretionary Income

In the United States, the LGBT population’s combined disposable personal income in 2015 was an estimated $917 billion.31

Same-sex couples have higher employment and a higher median income than opposite-sex couples.32

  • Couples with household incomes over $100,000:33
    • 45% of same-sex couples.
    • 41% of married opposite-sex couples.

Additional Resources

Catalyst, Ask Catalyst Express: LGBTQI Inclusion.

Catalyst, Ask Catalyst Express: Transgender Inclusion.

Catalyst, First Step: Gender Identity in the Workplace.

Catalyst, Flip the Script: LGB in the Workplace (2017).

Catalyst, LGBT Inclusion—Understanding the Terminology (2014).

ILGA, Maps – Sexual Orientation Laws in the World (2017).

ILGA-Europe, Rainbow Europe 2018 (2018).

Christine Silva and Anika K. Warren, Building LGBT-Inclusive Workplaces: Engaging Organizations and Individuals in Change (Catalyst, 2009).

Christine Silva and Anika K. Warren, Supporting LGBT Inclusion: A How-To Guide for Organizations and Individuals (Catalyst, 2009).

Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon and Alixandra Pollack, Feeling Different: Being the “Other” in US Workplaces (Catalyst, 2014).

DEFINITION: LGBT is the acronym most commonly used in the United States to address the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The acronym can vary in a number of ways, including GLBT and GLB, and can include additional letters, such as Q (queer or questioning), I (intersex), or A (asexual). Some include a plus (+) after the acronym to denote additional communities.34 We use the LGBT acronym throughout this Quick Take, except in instances in which a source uses another variation.

How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Workplace Issues (June 6, 2018).