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”.

For more information, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392
tony.trueman@britsoc.org.uk

Notes: 

1. The researcher combined reported job satisfaction levels relating to eight different aspects of the job. The eight items were measured on a scale ranging from 1 (the lowest level) to 6 (the highest) and covered the following aspects: the sense of achievement individuals gain from work; the scope of using their own initiative; the amount of influence they have over their job; the training they receive; the opportunity to develop their skills; the amount of pay; job security; and the work itself.

The model also included two variables measuring LGBT inclusive workplaces. The variable measuring LGBT inclusive policies had a score between 0 and 3 depending on satisfying three criteria: having a strategic plan mentioning employee diversity; having procedures to encourage job applications from LGBT individuals; and having a formal written policy on diversity which mentions sexual orientation. The variable measuring LGBT-inclusive monitoring activities had a score between 0 and 5 depending on satisfying five criteria: monitoring recruitment and selection by sexual orientation; reviewing recruitment procedures for indirect discrimination by sexual orientation; monitoring promotions by sexual orientation; reviewing promotion procedures for indirect discrimination by sexual orientation; and reviewing relative pay rates by sexual orientation.

The researcher adjusted the survey statistics to examine the effects of sexual orientation among people of similar age, ethnicity, health, education, managerial status, pay, workplace sector, and LGBT-friendly policies. The findings that bisexual men had lower job satisfaction than heterosexual men, and gay men had higher satisfaction were statistically significant. The finding that lesbians and bisexual women had lower job satisfaction than heterosexual women was not statistically significant, but matched the ‘raw’ survey data.

2.  The article is entitled ‘Job satisfaction and sexual orientation in Britain’ and appears in Work, Employment and Society journal, published by the British Sociological Association and SAGE. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0950017020980997

3.  The authors’ work is part of a large international project based at the University of Surrey in partnership with other universities in Scotland, Germany and Portugal. The project team led by Professor Andrew King set to identify, use and produce more empirical evidence on LGBTQI+ lives across four countries.

4.  The British Sociological Association’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235  britsoc.co.uk

For more information, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392
tony.trueman@britsoc.org.uk