An international study into the experiences of LGBT people living in 21 countries around the world has revealed what it described as “endemic” homophobia in workplaces internationally.

The new research study includes information on life experiences of LGBT people across six continents and claims to reveal the clearest picture yet of the prevalence of homophobia and its current impacts on the lives of many millions of lesbian and gay people globally.

Almost one in six respondents to the LGBT2020 study from the USA and more than one in seven in the UK (US: 15.3 percent and UK: 14.5 percent) told researchers they have personally experienced harassment from colleagues at work during the past twelve months, because of their perceived sexuality.

The statistics are part of the Out Now Global LGBT2020 Study based in the Netherlands. This landmark research project has collected data from more 100,000 people internationally, measuring a broad range of aspects of the lives of LGBT people.

One finding in the figures released this week is that homophobic harassment and discrimination is still commonplace in many aspects of LGBT people’s work lives.

While 53 percent of people were out to all their work colleagues in the UK, that figure dropped to 44 percent in the US.

Just over a quarter of people polled, 27 percent, believed coming out would harm their prospects for promotion in the UK, rising to 35 percent in the US.

According to Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now, which carried out the research, companies need to do much better on workplace Diversity and Inclusion policies to implement real improvements for all gay and lesbian staff at work.

“It is easy to become complacent in the context of upwardly trending results in the various corporate equality indexes,” Johnson said.

“There is a real danger that corporations seeing the awarding of high results or 100% scores on these indexes take out the message that there is little left to do when it comes to making LGBT people at work fully integrated, feel secure, respected and able to work as valued team members. The figures we see for various countries around the world contain disturbing findings. Levels of harassment in the workplace are too high in every country we sampled, and there is not one country where all LGBT people feel able to come out at work.”

David Chalmers, Director of The Kaleidoscope Trust said “Quality independent research of this kind is invaluable in helping us to understand the scale of the worldwide problem of homophobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, and to identify where best to concentrate our efforts.

“With levels of discrimination in the workplace remaining so high in countries like the UK and the USA, these findings show there is enormous work to do to bring about changes in attitudes towards LGBT people in the rest of the world.”

Mr Johnson said Out Now had identified what it called ‘The Diversity Gap’ and called upon companies to set about closing it.

“We see it in responses to questions that show how reluctant people are to ask about diversity and inclusion policies for LGBT employees during job interviews – even though the LGBT2020 study shows this to be one of the most critically important factors in a new job for most respondents when they consider a potential employer.”

Colleen Humphrey, Stonewall’s Director of Workplace said: ‘We know from our work to tackle state-sponsored homophobia worldwide that many gay people still live in fear of harassment and discrimination, including at work. Even here in Britain, recent research for Stonewall shows 2.4 million people of working age have witnessed homophobic bullying at work in the last five years, so it’s clear more needs to be done. Over 600 major employers, with 10 million staff worldwide between them, work with us to make sure their gay staff are supported in every location they’re based, and we encourage those employers to stand up for equality whenever it’s challenged.

“This sort of direct intervention will make a real difference to millions of people. We’re delighted that our Diversity Champions – including global employers like Ernst & Young, Barclays and P&G – are committed to the same goal.”

Mr Chalmers added there were dangers in relying on high scores on corporate LGBT workplace indexes globally: “In countries where there is some form of legal protection against discrimination in the workplace ranking companies by their legal compliance can help but In the international context, research based on indexes and rankings can actually be counter productive.”

Out Now is presenting a workshop called ‘The Diversity Gap – Where Policy Meets Workplace Reality’ in London on 5 July, 2012 at the Out & Equal Global LGBT Workplace Summit. More LGBT2020 research will be released at the summit, including the first ever homophobia workplace data for LGBT workers in Turkey, India and Israel.