THE UNCOUNTED COMMUNITY
WHY MISSING LGBTQ DATA MEANS MISSING OUT ON THE POWER TO CREATE CHANGE
By Bennett McAuley
Note: Given the cultural and social nuances of this topic on a global scale, the scope of this opinion piece will focus on the United States.
Imagine waking up, heading off to work or school, sharing a meal with friends, stopping off for an appointment – basically living your normal, everyday life – all the while not realizing that as far as data is concerned, you don’t exist.
For LGBTQ people, that’s the unfortunate reality when it comes to the knowledge gap created by a lack of data on the community. And that gap can have far-reaching consequences.
Data shapes the way societies understand macro-level issues: social, economic, environmental, technological, legal, educational, medical and so on. It is the catalyst for our minds to recognize relationships, systems and patterns to form opinions and make decisions. In short, data is critical to any individual or organization seeking to effect change, whether for themselves, their business or their community.
What happens, however, when there is no data? Consider the following:
1. How does one quantify the effects on a population that has no representation in the data?
2. How does one collect data on a population that is susceptible to social bias and cultural nuance?
3. How does one educate about facts and issues pertaining to a vulnerable population while retaining the integrity and focus of the conversation, regardless of who is listening?
The short answer: It’s impossible. That itself is an issue because, for a population like the LGBTQ community, it creates a negative feedback loop where the implication is that if there is no data to represent the community, then there is no community to represent.
So, the better question to ask is: What are the real-world impacts of this knowledge gap?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bennett is the Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager in the HR division. He is the strategic and operational lead for SAS’ Employee Inclusion Group Program. When Bennett isn’t supporting EIG initiatives and programming, he is always thinking and working on ways to bolster SAS’ diverse work culture. Bennett is unashamed to express himself as a gay, transgender man, and is empowered by his role in the organization to further SAS’ diversity goals.
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