Still Banging Our Heads on the Pink Ceiling

Former Curve magazine editors-in-chief Merryn Johns and Diane Anderson-Minshall have a conversation about a pivotal Curve cover story.

Why aren’t more out lesbians invested in our visibility? Visiting Curve Archivist Tina Brewster investigates and finds out that the problem has always been with us

Curve Magazine, Volume 23 Issue 8, October 2013

Why are lesbians afraid to grab the lesbian flag and wave it during Lesbian Visibility Week? This question arose after several attempts to recruit lesbians across the country to commit to help promote Lesbian Visibility Week in April as part of The Curve Foundation’s initiative.

The LGBTQ+ community has made great strides since October 2013 when Curve published the article Breaking the Pink Ceiling: How to come out and find your power,” by Sherry Berman. Unfortunately, discrimination toward the LGBTQ+ community and women in general continues to be a problem, not only in the United States but all over the world.

In her article, Sherry Berman explains that the “Ceiling” or “closet,” “lavender” or “pink”—whatever terminology we use—we’re ultimately talking about the internal and external limitations gay women face in finding success and deep satisfaction in their work.

Barack Obama was President in 2013 and an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. The current President, Joe Biden, who was Vice President during Barack Obama’s tenure, issued the Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation on January 20, 2021. Later, on June 15, 2022, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals. The order says, “Today, unrelenting political and legislative attacks at the State Level—on LGBTQI+ children and families in particular—threaten the civil rights gains of the last half-century and put LGBTQI+ people at risk.”

Photo: Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

These Executive Orders are supposed to help our community feel safer in the workplace, but according to a report by COEQUAL titled Out in the World: Securing LGBT Rights In The Global Workplace,” 36% to 40% of queer people still feel they need to change how they act to pass for straight and/or cover their sexuality in the workplace.

Additionally, workplace advocates Out & Equal have practical toolkits, guides, and reports on this issue that can help you in the workplace and beyond. And in honor of Lesbian Visibility Week, Curve pursued its own research to help move the needle. Read about the findings here

Photo: Isi Parente on Unsplash

Berman says in her 2013 article, “It is this fear of being truly who we are that directly affects our income, job opportunities, and overall satisfaction with our work.” But how can queer women not be afraid to come out when so many inequalities still exist in the workforce?

In the previously mentioned report by COEQUAL, only 62% of the people who worked for companies who were supportive did not fear failure in their company. While this is better than the 47% of queer people who are not afraid to fail at a company that does not support the queer community, it is a long way from 100% of queer people feeling confident in their work.

COEQUAL has another report titled “Challenging Norms: A Global Analysis of Gender at Work,” which explains that in “the nearly two decades” it has been “conducting research on gender inequalities in the workplace,” they have “charted how challenging it is for women to find equal footing.” Women in the US still bear heavy burdens at work and home, “especially with ongoing legislative attacks on cisgender and transgender women, ranging from reproductive rights to gender-affirming care.”

It’s a shame that after more than a decade since Curve published “Breaking the Pink Ceiling: How to come out and find your power,” the “Pink Ceiling” is still a barrier for women in general, but especially for queer women.

This year, The Curve Foundation is promoting several events and initiatives for Lesbian Visibility Week, April 22-28. Find out what’s going on and get involved here! Share the events with friends. Let’s push that ceiling higher or break through it this year. And, as always, visit the Curve Archive here.