The phrase “bring your whole self to work'' was coined in 2015 by Mike Robbins via his wildly popular TED Talk. But for some in the LGBTQ+ community, fears of rejection and discrimination are very real. A 2021 study out of ULCA’s William Institute found that nearly one in 10 LGBTQ people in the United States experienced workplace discrimination between March 2020 and May 2021, and almost half faced employment bias at some point in their careers.

To address that discrimination as part of Pride month, the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Central Boston Public Library to host its second job fair of the year specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals on June 16.

“We wanted people to know which companies were actually progressive and looking for LGBTQ talent. We wanted to help those companies find talent, and we wanted individuals that are LGBTQ to be able to come out and find where those companies were,” said LGBT Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Grace Moreno.

Moreno stressed the importance of being able to be authentic at work. “You're going to walk in feeling comfortable. You're going to interview well,” said Moreno about the job fair, noting that dozens of companies are registered with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Authenticity is crucial for job seekers like Nicole Harris, who attended the job fair. “It's important because I'm a lesbian," she said. "It's obviously part of my identity and I want to feel like when I go to work, I can be true to myself and like I don't have to hide a part of me from my coworkers.”

The creation of spaces like the LGBT job fair serves to level the playing fields. “Already knowing that that fear wasn't there and I was just being evaluated as a candidate for roles — it's less daunting,” said K, an attendee at the job fair who wanted to remain anonymous out of sensitivity regarding their employment situation.

Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce LGBTQ+ Job Fair
Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce awaits job seekers at it's annual LGBTQ+ Job Fair. Left to Right: (Michael O'Neill, Jo Trigilio, Grace Moreno)

While corporations increasingly use Pride month as an occasion to publicize their commitment to inclusion and diversity, to some it can come off as opportunistic “rainbow capitalism,” something the LGBT Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce avoids. That's why the organization includes sensitivity training and a vetting process of how to be an inclusive LGBTQ workspace.

That vetting process has earned the trust of Nicole Harris. “It's really easy for people to stick a rainbow on their average company design and look inclusive," she said. But Harris doesn’t feel that way about the companies participating at this BPL job fair. “I feel like people are being genuine and actually want to create an inclusive workspace," she said.

Diverse work environments don’t just create a space where people can be themselves, it also sets an expectation for future generations, and Harris hopes to work with kids in the future. “It's important to show kids that all kinds of people work in workplaces and it's not just your typical cis straight guy,” she said.

A recent study from Rutgers School of Public Health looked at job loss during COVID-19, and found that LGBTQ+ individuals were affected at a higher rate than non-LGBTQ+ individuals.

“The amount of discrimination against LGBTQ people is just multiplying across the country. We think because we live here in Boston or here in Massachusetts, that it's not the case,” said Moreno. ”You don't have to go very far past Worcester before you find some of the same despairing situations that happen to other LGBTQ people across the country.”

To Moreno's point, there is a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislationsweeping the country, and this week, the Supreme Court ruled that taxpayer dollars can go toward religious schools. This decision could lead to more taxpayer funded discrimination against LGBTQ students and school employees.

LGBTQ+ individuals who didn’t make it to the job fair can still access jobs from vetted companies through the LGBT chamber of Commerce’s website, and is seeking out LGBT-owned businesses.

“We want to have you be a part of our chamber. We have all kinds of resources. We have grants, we have workshops, we have special coaches, anything that a business needs to grow,” said Moreneo.

She hopes more businesses will continue to “get with the program of how the LGBTQ population is expected to be treated in the community and how that diversity actually is better for business.”