by Meridith Levinson

Technology Profession Discriminatory Toward Gay Men?

Oct 30, 20073 mins
IT Leadership

New study finds employers in some fields discriminate against gays when it comes to pay

Gay men who work in management positions or male-dominated, blue-collar professions such as construction, manufacturing and maintenance earn less money than heterosexual men in those same fields, according to research released last week from the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business and Economics.

The reason? Homosexual men are heavily discriminated against.

Although the research didn’t specifically address the technology profession, study author Bruce Elmslie says he wouldn’t be surprised if the field discriminated against gays because it’s so male dominated. “All of the results show that the more male dominated occupations saw high levels of discrimination [against gay men]. It leads you to suspect the possibility that gays would experience more discrimination in technology,” says the University of New Hampshire (UNH) economics professor who combed through labor and wage information from more than 91,000 heterosexual and homosexual couples collected by the U.S. Census March 2004 Current Population Survey.

According to the study, co-habiting gay men who work in management and traditionally masculine jobs earn 23 percent less money than married, heterosexual men and nine percent less than unmarried heterosexual men who live with a woman. “Nine percent is still a statistically significant difference,” says Elmslie. “If someone told you you’d be making nine percent less because of your sexual orientation, it’s a big number.”

Elmslie says employers discriminate against gay men because they or their customers may disapprove of the gay lifestyle. Employers may also be reluctant to hire gays for fear that they’ll be less productive or cost more to employ, especially if the employee has HIV or becomes infected with it.

The study, which was co-authored by Edinaldo Tebaldi, a former assistant professor of economics at UNH who is now at Bryant University, also looked at discrimination against gay women. Elmslie and Tebaldi’s research showed that lesbians do not face the same level of discrimination that gay men face.

Lesbians generally don’t face any more discrimination than other women in the workforce. In fact, says Elmslie, if an employer believes that lesbians are more career-oriented than heterosexual women and less likely to get pregnant and drop out of the workforce to raise children, the employer may favor them over other women when hiring.

“A lot of people in the United States would say that this type of discrimination doesn’t exist in this day and age, that it’s behind us,” says Elmslie. “Our research shows that it’s not, especially for gay males.”