Business and Management Studies: Improved workplace outcomes for sexual-orientation and gender-identity minorities

Prof Nick Drydakis

ARU research on the experiences of sexual-orientation and gender-identity minorities in the workplace has helped employers become more inclusive.

Prof Drydakis’ research led him to work with national and international institutions and organisations to update their policies and guidance in order to improve employment rates, pay, and job satisfaction for LGBT staff.

Nick Drydakis

Prof Nick Drydakis

Nick is the founding Director of ARU's Centre for Inclusive Societies and Economies (CISE) and a world-leading researcher in labour economics, specialising in the areas of inequality, poverty and discrimination.

Find out more about Prof Nick Drydakis Explore ARU researchers' original work via our open access repository, ARRO

Research summary

Prof Drydakis’ pioneering research into the experiences of sexual-orientation and gender-identity minorities in the workplace has highlighted a range of associated problems that were previously unnoticed by governments, researchers, and activists.

Prof Drydakis discovered that sexual-orientation minorities face significant barriers to employment, wage discrimination, and low job satisfaction compared to sexual-orientation majorities.

He was able to link this back to school-age bullying, which negatively impacts victims’ education, and therefore subsequent employment and wage levels. School bullying victims are more likely to take blue-collar jobs and experience further bullying in the workplace.

He found that these outcomes can be reversed by:

  • Anti-bullying strategies and gender and relationship education in schools
  • Establishing LGBT groups in the workplace
  • Implementing workplace inclusive policies.

Through another innovative study, Prof Drydakis found that openness about sexual orientation produces benefits not only for employees, but also at corporate and financial levels. This is because it improves LGBT individuals’ confidence, commitment, and interactions with colleagues, and therefore their workplace experiences and job satisfaction.

Similarly, he found that by supporting trans people who transition at work, organisations can share the benefits to the individual of achieving greater congruence between gender identity and appearance. These include improved mental health and life and job satisfaction, an increase in extraversion, better relationships with colleagues, higher self-esteem, an enhanced sense of achievement, and greater positivity towards life.

As a result of his research, Prof Drydakis proposed a number of organisational policies to combat constraints and discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace, including diversity management, mentoring schemes, counselling support, and management training.

He also identified features, processes, and practices that accommodate the specific needs of sexual-orientation and gender-identity minorities, including measures to prevent them being refused a job or promotion due to their sexual orientation, and to address harassment of LGBT employees by colleagues or customers.

Close-up of an arm and hand writing on a document in an office setting. The person is wearing a rainbow wristband and there's a rainbow flag behind their computer monitor

Summary of the impact

  • Shaped policy on workplace discrimination against minorities at the European Commission, OECD and World Bank
  • Informed the first workplace guidance in the UK and Canada on gender identity
  • Informed the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment call for anti-discrimination education in schools


In 2014 and 2017, Prof Drydakis was commissioned by the World Bank (Job Knowledge Platform Programme: IZA World of Labour) to evaluate the global workplace experiences of LGBT employees.

This resulted in the following recommendations being introduced into World Bank/IZA World of Labour guidance and policy on this topic:

  • Schools to adopt sexual orientation anti-discrimination education
  • Organisations to collect and register sensitive data, ensuring that personal information reflects employees’ self-defined identities
  • To ensure privacy for trans staff in relation to medical history and naming history
  • To ensure that uniforms, where required, are flexible and not gender-specific
  • To ensure the provision of gender inclusive facilities.

In 2017, the UK’s Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) used Prof Drydakis’ research in a report on ways to reduce workplace biases against sexual-orientation and gender-identity minorities, and recommended utilising his techniques, approaches and evaluations for further research and policy actions.

The OECD also invited him to address its Deputy Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, and officers from the European Agency for Human Rights, on the subject of recent advances in the economics of employment discrimination against LGBT people.

Prof Drydakis’ research also shaped the conclusions of a 2016 report of the EC Agency for the Improvement of Living and Working conditions, which evaluated the policy developments needed to address obstacles that LGBT encounter in the labour market.

The 2020 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights report suggested that policy interventions informed by Prof Drydakis’ work led to an 18% reduction in the proportion of LGBT people who felt discriminated against when looking for work between 2012 and 2019.

Prof Drydakis’ research findings additionally informed Statistics Sweden’s questions about sexual identity in its 2019 National Health Interview Survey, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s recommendations in its first guide on trans people’s work outcomes in 2018.

Read more about more about informing data and shaping new workplace policy recommendations.

Between 2014 and 2015, Prof Drydakis provided expert knowledge and consultancy to the Government Equalities Office and Inclusive Employers as they prepared the first UK guidance on trans workplace issues, with ARU being the only university invited to collaborate on this guidance.

Prof Drydakis’ research shaped sections of the guidance that provided:

  • Recommendations on organisational culture, values and awareness
  • Advice on how to represent inclusiveness on companies’ websites and branding
  • Guidance for human resources departments on recruitment polices
  • Advice on retention policies, including details of key milestones for managers before and after trans people’s transition.

Since 2015, this guidance has been implemented by 110 public and private organisations including the Bank of England, Co-operative Bank, House of Lords, NHS Digital, Nestle, Sky, Sony and Volkswagen.

According to a 2019 evaluation study, drawing on information from 112 regional departments across the UK, the guidance has positively impacted organisational culture and increased well-being for gender identity minorities.

Human resources managers have credited the guidance for helping their organisations create a more inclusive culture, make more inclusive recruitment decisions, and improve their corporate profiles, as well as improving trans employees’ and managers’ performance and relationships.

The guidance has also positively influenced the mental health of trans people, with 80% feeling more accepted and valued by the Government, and 50% reporting higher self-esteem and self-respect as a result of the guidance’s promotion of inclusivity in the workplace.

Read more about more about advising on government policies.

Informed by Prof Drydakis’ work on the negative long-term effects of school bullying on LGBT employment and income, the OECD’s 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) recommendations called for effective practices to transform the educational outcomes of sexual minority pupils.

In 2016, the UK Department of Education addressed these recommendations by trialling anti-discrimination interventions in schools. In 2019, it acknowledged the success of the trials, and made gender education compulsory in all secondary schools in the UK.

A 2020 study, consisting of a sample of 4,000 observations of young people up to the age of 24, found that these gender and anti-bullying educational interventions in schools have resulted in a 14% employment increase for sexual and gender identity minorities.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We have mapped our REF 2021 impact case studies against the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 17 SDGs, adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, are an urgent call for action. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

This case study is mapped to SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, target 8.8.

See also

Read the full REF 2021 impact case study for UoA 17: Improved workplace outcomes for sexual-orientation and gender-identity minorities (PDF)

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