In 29 states, including Pennsylvania, you could be fired for being gay—37 if you’re transgender, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no federal law that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning individuals from employment discrimination—something LGBTQ students and alumni need to be aware of, says Kathleen Anderson, the Steinbright Career Development Center’s employer relations and cooperative education coordinator.
Students and alumni should also know where to find LGBTQ-friendly employer information, how to list LGBTQ-related experiences on their résumés and how to handle coming out during a job interview, if they want to.
That’s why Steinbright, Drexel University’s full-service career center, this year partnered with OUT for Work, a national certification program to help enhance LGBTQ career resources for students in higher education. Drexel joins more than 300 universities and colleges participating in the OUT for Work program.
“Diversity is a critical component of Drexel University’s Strategic Plan 2012-2017,” said Peter J. Franks, vice provost for career education. “As part of our shared values and mission, we welcome the opportunity to enhance our career services to LGBTQ students.”
Anderson, Steinbright’s LGBTQ project team leader, said the OUT for Work partnership provides LGBTQ information training for Steinbright staff, and access for students to specialized LGBTQ resources developed to address anything that comes up around these unique career searches.
“This way, students and alumni can get all their information ahead of time and then handle it comfortably, however they want to handle it,” Anderson said.
Anyone with a Drexel email address currently has access to the OUT for Work Career Center Library, which offers numerous articles, papers and presentations for an LGBTQ audience. Login information can be found on the Drexel University Libraries site. In addition, Steinbright is developing a diversity section of its website for easier access to related resources, Anderson said.
The partnership with OUT for Work encourages Steinbright to set goals pertaining to its efforts to serve the interests and concerns of the LGBTQ community. When the office meets a goal (for instance: implementing new LGBTQ-specific workshops), it receives points toward certification. In July, Steinbright was awarded the bronze-level certification.
Recent civil engineering graduate Rebecca Reyman said she was happy to hear of Steinbright’s initiative to offer support for LGBTQ job seekers. Reyman, who spent the majority of her Drexel career involved with the undergraduate LGBTQ group Foundation of Undergraduates for Sexual Equality, said that Drexel—especially with its co-op focus—should strive to be a leader in the fight for equality and diversity in the workplace.
“Young LGBTQ students going on co-op have many questions and anxieties,” said Reyman, now an HNTB track designer. And she says those students have good reason to feel that way—she’s witnessed the struggle.
Reyman said that in an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work window, she’s been outed, had to field inappropriate questions and had coworkers explain in long-form how they feel about same-sex couples.
“It is important that Drexel provides LGBTQ-specific support, and ensures that companies that choose to take part in the co-op program are inclusive, safe and comfortable for students,” Reyman said. “I hope now that these services are available at Steinbright, students will take advantage of this great opportunity.”
As the nation transitions, Anderson said she has found that being gay can be a “big plus” during today’s hiring process.
“There are many companies that are looking for diversity in their workforce,” Anderson said. “If that helps give you a leg up among all the other people looking for a job, and you’re comfortable, you might as well use it.”
But limiting a student’s job search to only LGBTQ-friendly workplaces is not Steinbright’s intent, Anderson said.
“If there are 25 companies in Philadelphia that are rated LGBTQ-friendly, you’re not just going to apply to those,” she said. “This is all about helping students get to be successful in their career search, and on the job, wherever they are headed.”
Anderson is planning on attending OUT for Work’s national conference in Chicago in September on behalf of Steinbright. Since Drexel’s partnership is fairly new, she said she is looking forward to bringing back workshop topics and learning from colleagues.
The first LGBTQ student workshop, “Career Knowledge for LGBTQ Students,” will take place Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. in W.W. Hagerty Library during International Students Week. All Drexel students are welcome. Topics to be discussed include legal issues; coming out on a résumé, during interviews and on the job; identifying LGBTQ-friendly employers; and other career questions. This workshop and others will be regularly offered throughout the year by Steinbright.