Sexual orientation affects average wages, research reveals
Lesbians in the UK earn on average 8 per cent more than heterosexual women, while gay men take home 5 per cent less than their straight colleagues, according to research from Anglia Ruskin University.
The report – Sexual orientation and labor market outcomes – showed that the pay gap varied across Europe and the US. In Germany, lesbians earn 11 per cent more than straight women, while the gap increased to 20 per cent in the US.
For gay men, their heterosexual counterparts took home 9 per cent more in Germany and 16 per cent more in America.
Commissioned by the World Bank/IZA World of Labor project, Nick Drydakis, senior economics lecturer at the university and author of the report said the pay disparity for gay and straight women, was inconsistent with the notion that employers discriminate based on sexual orientation.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Drydakis suggested 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.
“Lesbians may be inclined to realize early in life that they will not marry into a traditional household,” he said.
“They will be more likely to undertake a series of career-oriented decisions, such as staying in school longer, choosing a major that is likely to lead to a higher paying job, and working longer hours, than if they adopted traditional gender-based household specialisation roles,” he added.
But when it comes to homosexual men, research has suggested that a ‘sexual stigma’ still exists in many workplaces around the world, and many gay men face discrimination for not conforming to traditional gender roles.
“Deviations from masculinity may result in biased evaluations and discriminatory treatment against them (gay men) in the workplace since they do not meet expectations around conforming to male norms of dominance and assertiveness. They are sanctioned for behaving in ways that are congruent with the feminine identity of supportiveness and submissiveness,” Drydakis said.
The report highlights that fewer than 20 per cent 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.
Governments around the world can help through campaigns promoting respect and equality of treatment in the workplace and by publishing annual data on progress toward equality objectives, the report said.
Meanwhile, HR should reinforce the importance of good employer-employee relations, as this has been proven to increase job satisfaction for gay and lesbian employees.
Despite being paid more, lesbians as well as gay men reportedly have lower job satisfaction and are more likely to be harassed by work colleagues, according to the report.
“Firms should evaluate recruitment and promotion policies to ensure equality of opportunity and should address incidents of harassment,” Drydakis concluded.