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LGBTQ+ job seekers seek real commitment, not just symbols

LGBTQ+ job seekers seek real commitment

In recent years, an increasing number of companies and organizations have incorporated messages about diversity and inclusion into their recruitment strategies. This shift reflects a growing awareness of the importance of fostering diversity in the workplace. Kristie Moergen, an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at Iowa State University, emphasizes the need for organizations to move beyond mere rhetoric and embody practices that attract individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Moergen and her coauthors conducted research focusing on two distinct types of signals displayed on company websites and how they impact a job seeker’s initial attraction to and perceived fit with a company. The first type of signal, known as “pointing signals,” serves to inform prospective employees that the organization embraces diversity and inclusion. Examples of pointing signals include a CEO’s statement expressing support for LGBTQ+ individuals or images depicting employees participating in pride parades. The second type, “activating signals,” actively demonstrate how diversity and inclusion are embodied within the company. This can encompass features like the presence of an LGBTQ+ employee resource group or a comprehensive training policy for the company’s suppliers.

To investigate the impact of these signals, the researchers conducted two experiments and a survey between 2020 and 2022. They used Prolific, an online data collection platform, to recruit participants for these studies.

The Experiments

The first experiment involved LGBTQ+ participants who were actively seeking employment in the United States. Participants were directed to explore the websites of a fictional logistics company, with each version of the website emphasizing different types of signals. One version prominently featured pointing signals, another contained more activating signals, and the third replaced diversity and inclusion-related content with information about other organizational values, such as commitment.

The second experiment was similar to the first but involved participants who did not identify as LGBTQ+. The survey study encompassed participants from both groups who evaluated the websites of potential employers they had encountered during recent job searches.

Moergen explains that the final study considered other factors that might influence attraction to an organization, such as geographic location or industry reputation. Despite accounting for these variables, the results revealed the enduring significance of diversity signals to job seekers.

The Findings

In the first experiment involving LGBTQ+ participants, both pointing and activating signals positively influenced their perceptions of the company’s diversity climate. However, activating signals proved significantly more effective at enhancing perceptions of diversity and inclusion. These enhanced perceptions, in turn, increased the initial attraction to the company and the perceived fit with it among LGBTQ+ job seekers. In the second experiment, which involved non-LGBTQ+ participants, both types of signals increased participants’ perceptions of diversity climate. This demonstrates the positive “spillover” effect of LGBTQ+ inclusivity signals, which can extend to influence the attraction and fit perceptions of non-LGBTQ+ job seekers.

Consistent with the findings of the experiments, the survey study indicated that job seekers, regardless of their LGBTQ+ identification, were more attracted to and perceived a better fit with organizations that actively signaled genuine support for LGBTQ+ employees on their corporate websites.


Based on their research, the authors assert that companies and organizations aiming to attract and support a diverse workforce must go beyond mere verbal declarations of support and instead demonstrate concrete actions that align with their stated commitment to diversity and inclusion. Their study, published in the journal Personnel Psychology, was a collaborative effort involving researchers from James Madison University, Penn State, and the University of Arkansas.

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