Almost daily, a new study or report confirms what we already know: LGBTQ people of color start out at a disadvantage and fall farther behind as we progress in our lives and careers- irrespective of education, acumen, ambition, and/or class. In addition to homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia, we confront huge racial gaps in employment, advancement, income, wealth, social mobility, housing, representation, and investment that continue to widen, and worsen.
Urban+Out (urban-and-out) is a social impact organization founded in 2011 to address the critical need for more community- and capacity- building spaces, opportunities, and resources for diverse LGBTQ professionals of color. Since then we have engaged 1,000 individuals, held 30+ events in 7 markets, and worked with two dozen partners.
Urban+Out was launched in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which exacerbated already deep inequities in American life. Those gaps remain. Almost daily, a new study or report confirms what we already know: LGBTQ people of color start out at a disadvantage and fall farther behind as we progress in our lives and careers- irrespective of education, acumen, ambition, and/or class. Huge racial gaps in employment, advancement, income, wealth, social mobility, housing, representation, and investment continue to widen, and worsen. Some of us have made progress, but throughout our history incremental individual access has masked- and perpetuated- institutional barriers to opportunity and equity.
LGBTQ professionals of color start out behind white peers, and are falling farther behind, with few pathways to leadership.
Most Black and Brown college graduates end up in non-college jobs. The racial wage gap continues to expand while the black unemployment rate has remained twice that of whites for 50 years, irrespective of booms and busts. Latinx households are worth less than 1/10 of whites ones. Millions of queer and trans workers can be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity and existing protections are under threat. And despite the 'model-minority' myth, Asian-Americans workers fared worse than other groups of color during the recession, and among all racial groups, the least likely to be promoted into leadership.
Lack of access to information, networks, pipelines, role models and mentors, and best practices means dismal representation in workspaces, and crises of diversity in leadership- in all sectors.
Issues of representation in some industries are well-known, but lack of diversity prevails in every sector, from finance and tech to philanthropy and the arts. Just 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are people of color, but so too are only 10% of nonprofit CEOs. While tech's issues are universally debated and diversity has actually lost ground at the big banks, the leadership of nonprofits, which serve mostly people of color, remains overwhelmingly white. And yes, this is the reality in mainstream LGBTQ spaces as well.
Similar barriers limit leadership and entrepreneurship within our communities.
In an economy where almost all net job growth comes from startups, there is scant access to capital for entrepreneurs of color; as little as 1% of venture capital ends up black hands. While the vast majority of nonprofits remain overwhelmingly white in staff and leadership, some of the most vital work for LGBTQ people of color is being done by those organizations founded and led by LGBTQ people of color. They are almost universally under-resourced, under-funded, and under-staffed, with little access to funding of scale, best practices, professional development, and board recruitment.
The challenges facing LGBTQ communities of color are complex and there are many ways of confront them. Ours is to build LGBTQPOC leadership, at all levels, from information and mentorship for youth, to networks and pipelines for professionals, to best practices and capacity for entrepreneurs and organizations.