12 min read

lgbtq inclusion at work and in tech

LGBTIQ + labor inclusion in Technology: challenges for companies


Have you ever been questioned about your romantic preferences during a job interview, or asked "how long have you been who you are", or called in a way that does not represent you in the office? These are common situations faced by LGBT individuals when entering the job market, particularly within the IT industry. Therefore, we aim to delve into the topic of LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the technology sector and explore the challenges encountered by companies.

A few months ago, we examined the disparity between men and women in terms of access to job opportunities in the technology field. At XOOR, we made a commitment to address this issue internally and successfully achieved our proposed goals. However, inclusivity is not a binary concept and should consider the diverse range of identities.

In this sense, we talked with members of the LGBTIQ+ community to get closer to their realities and to understand the complexities of labor insertion today.

In this article:

LGBTIQ+ Labor Inclusion in Technology: the first obstacle is imagining it

In the Western world, childhood is often defined by binaries: games, colors, and societal roles are preconfigured, assigning specific ones to boys and others to girls. Boys are given blocks, cars, and consoles, while girls are offered dolls, makeup, and cooking toys. Through play, children learn and develop skills that they carry into their relationships and social spaces, as noted by Agostina Mileo in Chapter 6 of her book, "May Science Accompany You in Fighting for Your Rights."

Consequently, individuals assigned female at birth are raised with aspirations of becoming princesses, engaging in caregiving tasks, and staying away from technological pursuits. On the other hand, those born with male genitalia are encouraged to embrace technology, build things, exert strength, and embody the role of "superheroes."

When adolescence arrives and they begin to wonder about the future, women rarely consider the possibility of studying careers related to Science and Technology or working in that industry. According to UN Women and UNESCO, only 29.3% of women worldwide work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Moreover, many of them only explore these paths later in life.

Barbara Imperatori, a lesbian programmer, attended a private institute in 2018 with no prior knowledge of the subject. At the age of 29, she noticed that many of the women and gender non-conforming individuals she followed on Twitter were pursuing training in systems and got astonished. She questioned, "Isn't this meant for men?". She confessed that she had always envisioned "guys wearing hoodies, glasses, immersed in darkness, who barely showered once a month". However, upon seeing the visibility of all these girls being encouraged on social media, she wondered, "Why not work in technology?"

It becomes even more complex for non-binary, cross-dressing, and transgender children and adolescents. Their primary struggle is to accept their own identities and be recognized on equal terms with cisgender individuals, who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. In this challenging context, where they continually face violence and discrimination, envisioning a future in education or the workforce becomes even harder, particularly in an industry like technology, which carries significant stigma both internally and externally.

To provide an illustration, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) reported in 2015 that "the average life expectancy of trans women in Latin America is 35 years". In Argentina, this figure rises to 40 years according to the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth (CIPPEC).

In this regard, Transistemas, an organization composed of LGTBIQ+ individuals with the objective of facilitating the labor integration of community members into technology systems, reported that "75% of the transgender population does not complete their education, let alone access courses or universities''. They further emphasize that “those who do manage to access basic education often do not have access to the change of registration, life expectancy is very low, the suicide rate is very high”. In light of these concerning statistics, Transistemas urges others to make an effort to learn how to engage with their community.

Overcoming prejudice: LGBT individuals entering the tech job market

Coi Bressan, QA Tester, UXUI web designer, and activist with the Transistemas organization, highlights the prevailing perception of systems and technology as domains exclusively for cisgender heterosexual men. The stereotypical image associated with these fields, often depicted as someone with glasses, further exacerbates the lack of visibility and representation for the transvestite-trans community.

For Coi, pursuing a career in technology was born out of necessity. "Working in systems offers good salaries, and it doesn't necessarily require a university degree," Coi explained. With the abundance of information available on the internet and a persistent drive to learn, it is possible to acquire self-taught knowledge in this field.

Additionally, LGBT organizations in Argentina and around the world now offer accessible courses tailored to the community's needs. Coi reached out to TransTI initially and received training in QA Testing. Subsequently, discovering Transistemas provided an opportunity not only to learn UXUI Web Design but also to find himself and engage in activism.

For Coi, studying technology and being able to work in the field coincided with the need for acceptance and affection. "As trans individuals, when we receive an education, we fear others due to the violence we experience, the misgendering, and the use of our deadnames".

Attending university, especially in "hard" science disciplines, is challenging when one doesn't conform to hegemonic norms. “Even in a free online workshop, one can find valuable resources, which are particularly crucial for those who cannot afford private institutions”.

Learning technology for the LGBT community is only possible if "they teach you with love". With a tender expression, Coi said that it is not the complexity of the subject matter itself that poses the greatest challenge but rather the availability of information presented in a loving way.

Despite initially finding technology unfamiliar and intimidating, Coi was able to comprehend software development because of someone patiently explaining it with care and kindness.

Coi's personal experience motivated him to extend these opportunities to other people and become more actively involved in Transistemas. Currently, Coi is responsible for Communication and Training, and to pursue his goals, is studying Communication and Psychology at the UBA.

IT job interviews for LGBT individuals

In addition to organizations that offer exclusive courses for the LGBT community with a focus on teaching with love, in 2020, the Argentinian National State introduced the program "Aprendé a Programar" (Learn to Code), providing free courses for different levels from 8 years old and with different modalities. According to Transistemas, 75% of the participants enrolled in the program are trans, highlighting the significance of this public policy for the community.

In this context, it is important to address the second barrier faced by those who have managed to overcome prejudice and find supportive learning environments: entering the job market.

While sending a resume may appear simple for some, it can be a source of anxiety for others. Lack of experience, age, marital status, and uncertainty about whether to disclose gender identity are among the concerns. Once the resume is prepared and submitted, it must overcome the biases of recruiters.

Coi shared his experience of sending numerous resumes without receiving any calls. He believes it is because he explicitly mentions his trans identity. He can discern this through a company's website, social media posts, and the discriminatory language used in their everyday communication.

For members of the LGBT collective, the job interview itself is feared, as reflected in LGBT statistics in Argentina. According to the organization Contratá Trans, of the entire trans population, "70% have never been called for a job interview after openly identifying with their gender". As a consequence, along with other factors, 60% resort to sex work as the only means of survival.

Transistemas explained that transvestites, transsexuals and non-binary people "always have to defend our identity and explain it", they have to face uncomfortable questions such as "what gender do you identify with", "when did you realize it", "which people do you like". The discomfort lies not only in answering these questions, possibly without having a precise response, but also in the fact that it is not the responsibility of the interviewee to educate employers on gender-related issues; it is the employers' responsibility to be educated.

However, the complexity does not end with the meeting with the human resources department. Many companies ultimately refrain from hiring qualified individuals for positions in systems, QA testing, or project management due to fears of disrupting an established team. As a result, they choose not to hire qualified candidates, as pointed out by Transistemas.

Thus, the cycle repeats itself. A negative job interview can be discouraging, reinforcing the fear associated with future interviews and leading individuals to give up on opportunities. As a consequence, they struggle to gain experience in their field, years pass, resumes remain stagnant, and interviews become daunting monsters.

Discrimination and labor exclusion in the LGBT community

Alessandra Fernándes is 25 years old and was studying psychology in 2019. "I was struggling, unemployed for over a year", she shared. Unable to sustain herself financially, she embarked on a self-taught journey into programming with the help of her then-boyfriend, online courses, and instructional videos. Currently, she is in her final year of studying Computer Systems Technology at UTN.

Alessandra acknowledged that discrimination based on gender identity is unfortunately prevalent in both the labor and academic spheres. However, due to her "cispassing" condition—referring to trans individuals whose identity may not be apparent based on their physical appearance—and her choice not to openly disclose her trans identity, she experiences less direct discrimination. As she stated, "I am treated as just another woman, and I don't feel as much direct discrimination".

Her entry into the world of technology began as a QA Tester. During her first job, a colleague started stalking her on social media and later confronted her, saying, "I discovered that you're trans, I would have never guessed". This colleague proceeded to ask numerous personal questions. Alessandra felt that her privacy had been violated and that the tone of the inquiries was overly intimate. She had to assert herself, explaining, "Straight cis people are not asked about their intimate lives or what genitals they have". To make matters worse, that person shared this information throughout the company, leading to a change in how other colleagues treated Alessandra.

These types of attitudes, no matter how slight, are cases of labor discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity. They contribute to the exclusion of individuals from their professional environment, and often lead the victims to isolate themselves and, in many cases, to resign.

Despite these challenges, Alessandra remains resilient, self-assured, and proud of her accomplishments. She finds happiness in working for a company that values her voice, actively listens to her, and provides ongoing training opportunities.

Challenges for companies when hiring LGBTIQ+ people

"Argentina is one of the countries with more rights for the LGBT community in the world", state Transistemas, highlighting the contrast with countries like Russia and Hungary where homosexuality is considered "illegal". Significant progress has been made in Argentina with the Equal Marriage Law, Gender Identity Law, Micaela Law, and the recent approval of the Lohana Berkins and Diana Sacayán Transvestite Trans Labor Quota.

The passage of these laws is made possible by a cultural shift that allows for consensus within the Congress. These transformations in social norms urge the private sector to follow suit. Many software development and technology companies are already actively embracing identity diversity within their workforce.

However, Transistemas and Contratá Trans emphasize that merely employing LGBT individuals is not enough. It is crucial to create an environment where they feel comfortable, included, and can thrive like any other employee.

This entails training the human resources department so that during interviews, the initial questions should be “what’s your name and your pronoun”, followed by “which restroom do you prefer” and “what can we do to make you feel comfortable”. Additionally, providing legal and healthcare assistance is important.

Creating workspaces free from violence, abuse, and harassment related to gender issues is equally crucial. For this reason, it is necessary to train managers, project leaders, and all individuals who interact on a daily basis. Transistemas emphasizes that this is a matter of human empathy.

Eradicating LGBT labor discrimination in Argentina remains a major issue. According to the organization Sin Violencia LGBT, in Latin America between 2014 and 2020, an average of 20 people were killed every month due to their sexual orientation or diverse gender identity. Addressing all forms of discriminatory behavior requires educating members within organizations.

Finally, they propose taking proactive steps in hiring. This includes actively seeking out LGBT individuals through LGBT job boards in Argentina or reaching out to organizations that focus on this issue. Employers also explain that, due to the life experiences of LGBT individuals, they may not always possess the level of training that companies require for their projects. Transistemas recommends hiring and training gay, lesbian, transvestite, transsexual, non-binary, or queer individuals in the languages, technologies, and skills they need.

Gender Diversity in the Workplace

At XOOR we have started to walk the path of inclusion with questions, knowing first hand the realities faced by diverse gender identities, and we intend to draw up a plan to turn words into actions. Our goal is to **train the entire team in order to create a healthy, loving and pleasant environment to incorporate all the diversities that want to work with us. **

We are currently in the process of studying and designing this plan. We firmly believe that fostering a healthy and balanced workplace is essential for everyone to thrive. We aim to create conditions that allow individuals with different gender identities to be their authentic selves without fear or shame.

If you want to share your thoughts, learn more about what we do, or simply leave us a message, send an email to hola@xoor.io. We'll get back to you as soon as we can.