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Lesbians and bisexual people less satisfied at work than heterosexual colleagues

Tony Trueman - British Sociological Association

Lesbians and bisexual men and women are less satisfied at work than their heterosexual counterparts, new research says.

And inclusive policies set up to ensure there is no discrimination against them have no significant effect on their job satisfaction, the study shows.

Dr Sait Bayrakdar, of King’s College London, and Professor Andrew King, of the University of Surrey, analysed survey data on 15,672 British workers, 357 of whom identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

The survey asked them to rate their satisfaction at work, with heterosexual men giving an average score of 28.3 out of a possible top rating of 48, and bisexual men giving 24.6, around 13% lower (3.7 points). Gay men, however, were happier than heterosexuals, with a score of 29.3, 4% higher.

Heterosexual women gave an average score of 28.9, with bisexual women scoring 27.2, 6% lower, and lesbians scoring 27.9, 3% lower.

In their recent research the authors adjusted the data from the survey, carried out in 2011, in order to isolate the effect of sexual orientation by comparing people of similar age, education and other factors, and they found a similar gap in work satisfaction.

In an article in Work, Employment and Society journal, published by the British Sociological Association, the researchers said: “Among both men and women, bisexual individuals had the lowest job satisfaction levels.

“Bisexual men had considerably lower levels of job satisfaction when compared to heterosexual men, suggesting a substantial male bisexual penalty which was statistically significant. Lesbians had lower job satisfaction levels compared to heterosexual women.”

Their research did not tackle the reasons for the lower job satisfaction, but for those who had not revealed their sexuality, “constant self-censorship and control can be exhausting, and it may feel like a betrayal to one’s true self, as well as colleagues, intimate partners and communities.”

Even for those who were open about their sexuality, there were issues. “While disclosing one’s LGB identity can be rewarding, eliminating the emotional burden and distress caused by concealment, it may still have a negative impact on one’s well-being and job satisfaction. LGB individuals may experience prejudice and overt discrimination, or face more subtle forms of discrimination.”

Bisexual people faced additional issues, the researchers said. “Researchers working on the relationship between bisexuality and employment suggest that bisexual individuals face unique forms of discrimination and stigma, which are qualitatively different to those experienced by gay and lesbian individuals.

“Their bisexuality is often unrecognised, erased or may be labelled as ‘confused’ or

‘fake’. Furthermore, diversity policies, which should ameliorate this discrimination have also been criticised for ignoring or poorly reflecting sexual minority identities, other than gay and lesbian.”

The research provided evidence for the first time on the job satisfaction of LGB individuals across Britain, and the effectiveness of policies to ensure no discrimination.

“Britain stands as an excellent case to study such workplace-level effects, since LGB workplace policies were adopted in Britain earlier than many other countries,” the researchers said.

“Britain is often regarded as being at the forefront of LGBT equality policies and there is an increasing attention to these policies given by public sector organisations, companies and employee networks.

“However, our results suggest that the existence of LGBT-related diversity and management policies at workplaces does not necessarily induce higher job satisfaction levels for LGB employees.

“Policymakers need to consider why policies, even in the countries with pioneering LGBT equality rights legislation, do not appear to impact on job satisfaction levels amongst LGB employees to a greater extent.”

Speaking about the research, Dr Bayrakdar said that it did not show that LGBT-related diversity and management policies were not effective in reducing unfair treatment of LGB employees. “That said, the fact that we do not find any effect on job satisfaction suggests that there is still room for improvement in terms of LGBT inequalities at workplaces”.

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