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Lesbian employees in the UK earned 8% more than heterosexual women, with the gap increasing to 11% in Germany and 20% in the US, although gay men wearned less than their male heterosexual counterparts, according to a new study.
The report, ‘Sexual orientation and labour market outcomes’ by Dr Nick Drydakis of Anglia Ruskin University, investigates workplace discrimination, earnings and job satisfaction among gay and lesbian workers worldwide.
It highlights that fewer than 20% of countries have adopted sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws in employment, and 2.7 billion people live in countries where being gay or lesbian is a crime.
It shows that gay and lesbian employees have lower job satisfaction than their heterosexual counterparts and are more likely to be harassed by work colleagues.
Globally, people who are identified as gay or lesbian during the initial stage of the hiring process are discriminated against in favour of heterosexual applicants with comparable skills and experience.
The report finds that gays and lesbians who are open about their sexual orientation within the workplace are more likely to report higher job satisfaction than those who are not. Although lesbian workers earned more in the UK and other countries than heterosexual women, gay men receive lower earnings than their male heterosexual counterparts in all countries studied. In the UK average earnings are 5% lower, 9% lower in Germany and 16% lower in the US.
Dr Drydakis, Senior Lecturer in Economics at Anglia Ruskin University, said: “A puzzling issue is the earnings premium found for lesbian employees in some countries. Studies on access to job vacancies suggest that lesbians are more discriminated against during the initial stage of the hiring process than heterosexual women. Job satisfaction studies also suggest that lesbians are less satisfied with their jobs.
“There are no quantitative studies of the relationships among gender identity, personality characteristics, and labour market prospects for lesbians. So whether lesbian employees possess characteristics that enhance their attributes for job advancement and earnings is still unknown.”
He told People Management Today that part of the reason might be that the usual factors that prevent women climbing the corporate ladder, such as flexible working and maternity leave, are less likely to apply to lesbians.
The report found that Australia, Canada, the US, and the EU have the strongest protection of sexual-orientation rights, including workplace anti-discrimination laws. Despite this, gays and lesbians there still experience more obstacles to getting a job, lower job satisfaction, earning bias (especially gay men) and more bullying and harassment than their heterosexual counterparts, the report found.
Dr Drydakis added: “These findings imply that legislative protection constitutes only a small step toward improving the employment circumstances and general well-being of people who are gay or lesbian, and highlights the need for other policy interventions.
“Because most studies suggest that negative attitudes toward gay and lesbian employees are the source of labour-market bias against them, social planners should try to influence public opinion and people’s attitudes toward sexual-orientation minority groups.
“In addition to anti-discrimination legislation, improving the situation for sexual-orientation minorities will require policy actions, including formal equality of treatment in employment policies, anti-discrimination and anti-bullying campaigns, and affirmative action.
“In addition, firms should be encouraged to foster work environments in which gay and lesbian workers feel comfortable enough to be open about their sexual orientation.
“Employers should collaborate with gay and lesbian workers to make the workplace an inclusive environment for people of all sexual orientations, and to provide equal career development opportunities for people of a minority sexual orientation.”