In this article, I report on a field experiment (144 job-seekers and their correspondence with 5549 firms) that tested the extent to which sexual orientation affects the labour market outcomes of gay and lesbian job-seekers in the United Kingdom. Their minority sexual orientations, as indicated by job-seekers’ participation in gay and lesbian university student unions, negatively affected their workplace prospects. The probability of gay or lesbian applicants receiving an invitation for an interview was 5.0 percent (5.1%) lower than that for heterosexual male or female applicants. In addition, gay men and lesbians received invitations for interviews by firms that paid salaries that were 1.9 percent (1.2%) lower than those paid by firms that invited heterosexual male or female applicants for interviews. In addition, in male- or female-dominated occupations, gay men and lesbians received fewer invitations for interviews than their non-gay and non-lesbian counterparts. Furthermore, gay men and lesbians also received fewer invitations to interview for positions in which masculine or feminine personality traits were highlighted in job applications and at firms that did not provide written equal opportunity standards, suggesting that the level of discrimination depends partly on the personality traits that employers seek and on organization-level hiring policies.
This mirrors previous findings in Greece, the United States, Canada and Sweden. The international evidence is clear: if your status as a gay or lesbian person is clearly evident from items in your CV, you are less likely to be hired and you are likely to make less money. There is no doubt in my mind that homophobia is still a systemic component of hiring practices—the evidence is clear. This is not a reason to hide away—the cost to my well-being of remaining in the closet was significantly more than the cost of discriminatory practices in employment is likely to be, but that kind of thing is a subjective evaluation every gay person has to make for themselves.
Studies like this, and the equivalent studies done on responses to CVs with names connoting specific racial groups should destroy any dubious claim that the business world is purely “meritocratic”, just as the drastic rise in women playing in symphony orchestras following the introduction of blind auditions did.
The disappointing thing about this study is that the first “CV test” was done back in 1981 in Toronto and found a 10% difference in response rate to applicants with gay-related experience on their CV. In 2015, in this study conducted here in the United Kingdom, the country with the best legal situation in the whole of Europe for LGBT people with regards to equal rights, that figure is still 5%. It’s great that the figure has halved. But it’s depressing that it hasn’t dropped further and faster especially given how well other measures of equality have shifted. Despite the claims that with the passage of same-sex marriage there are no more fights left (which was always bullshit), there is still clearly documented evidence of bias in hiring practices.