Employers Exhibit Bias Against Gay Job Seekers

Men applying to jobs in the Midwest and the South who give evidence of being gay on their resumes are less likely to be called back for an interview than men perceived as displaying heterosexual qualities, according to a study published by a Harvard researcher this week.

The study found that, on average, men perceived as gay had to apply to 14 jobs to get called back for an interview. Men perceived as straight had to apply to fewer than nine jobs to receive a call back.

András Tilcsik ’05, who conducted the study and is a joint Ph.D candidate at Harvard Business School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, sent pairs of mock resumés to 1,769 job openings in seven states and compared the responses in order to gauge employer bias. To signal the applicant’s homosexual orientation, one of the fictitious resumes listed treasurer of a LGBT campus group as a past leadership position. The other fake applicant listed participation in a liberal campus organization to control for political discrimination while not including any groups that might indicate that the candidate was gay.

On average, the men perceived as being gay were called back for an interview 7.2 percent of the time, while men perceived as straight were called back for interviews 11.5 percent of the time.

Tilcsik wrote in an email that his findings differed significantly among geographic regions in the United States. In the western and northeastern states—California, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania—Tilcsik found a very small gap in the callback rates. But in the southern and midwestern states—Florida, Ohio, and Texas—there was a much larger gap in the callback rate for the two resumes.

Co-president of the  Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, Sam J. Bakkila ’11-’12, wrote in an email that the findings of Tilcsik’s study did not surprise him.

Bakkila wrote that, a senior applying for jobs, he personally must consider whether or not to include his position as the leader of a LGBTQ organization on campus in his resumé.

Bakkila wrote that he thinks the regional differences in hiring practices are especially important for Harvard students to consider. “This is very important for us all to remember because it is easy to feel, on a liberal college campus in the Northeast, that the battle for LGBT equality has already been won,” Bakkila wrote.

Tilcsik’s article represents the first major study of its kind to examine discrimination against gay men in the workplace without its participants being aware that a study was being carried out. It was published Tuesday in the American Journal of Sociology.


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