Your gay voice and gay look could hurt your career
We’ve all been told to be careful what we say at work, but now it seems some think we need to be cautious with how we say it because your gay voice and gay look could hurt your career. A study out of the University of Surrey in the U.K. showed that men and women were less likely to be employed in leadership positions due to the sound of their voices.
Stereotypes about your gay voice are being heard loud and clear
Who would have thought that the sound of someone’s voice would be a determining factor in people being hired and promoted or not being hired and promoted? It’s evidently true per a 2017 study out of the U.K.
In the study, participants who acted as hiring managers were asked to rate potential candidates for a fake CEO position. The hiring managers were asked to provide, on a scale of 1 to 5, the employability of candidates and to provide salaries the hiring manager thought were commensurate for the position and the candidates’ qualifications. The potential candidates were assessed and selected using voice and image samples from a pool of candidates who were both heterosexual and homosexual.
The results were quite surprising.
For candidates in the group who were men, the sound of the voices played a critical role in the outcome. It turns out that men who, “sound gay” were perceived as being less suitable for the position. In addition, those perceived to be gay were less likely to receive higher paying salaries than those with “masculine sounding” voices. The results for women were similar. When a woman was perceived as being gender non-conforming, or less feminine, she received lower marks for employability and salary.
We might ask, what if the non-conforming seeming candidate isn’t gay or lesbian? Is it fair that they would be punished for their natural traits? Does this even matter?
Setting the stage for discrimination against your gay voice
It’s redundant but necessary to reiterate that in 30 states in the United States, it’s still not against the law to fire or not hire someone because they are perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The same goes for providing equal compensation.
With this stereotyping, it’s highly likely in these states and others, those worthy candidates with the right credentials and experience to help a business succeed are being passed by or under-employed. What does that do for a company’s bottom line? Why would a company want to miss an opportunity to have the best candidate?
According to Dr. Fasoli, who conducted the above study, “It is revealing, that despite all the work to lessen discrimination against the LGBT community, people subconsciously typecast an individual before getting to know them. This study highlights that it can be a real problem in the workplace and for peoples’ career prospects.” This is why every chance we get to advocate for ourselves and our careers we must take them. Tools like this will help!
Solving the unconscious bias against your gay voice, gay look and all differences
As Dominic Barton of McKinsey & Company, a global leader in management consulting, stated, “We have a mission statement with two equal parts. The first is to have a lasting impact on our clients and the second is to attract and retain the best talent. We can’t do either if we aren’t attracting a broad set of the best available talent. Therefore, we need LGBTQ people to feel comfortable that McKinsey & Company is a good place to work.”
How do companies make sure all employees feel supported to bring their full and true selves to work and give 100%? The key is to help all employees overcome unconscious bias.
Today, though, we’ve learned to rely on our minds unconscious ability we don’t have the same environmental dangers we once had, which can then lead to negative unconscious bias.
To be true, there are good unconscious biases. These protect us from today’s real threats, such as seeing a figure at the end of a dark alley heightening our senses to possible danger. The negative aspect of that unconscious bias would be to assume that someone of a particular gender or ethnic background is more dangerous than another.
Where bias exists against your gay voice and correcting it
According to Google’s Unconscious Bias training, there are four primary areas where this bias can exist. This is telling as to why we encounter bias in voice and facial features. These are taken directly from Google’s employee training;
There are four things in the workplace that commonly trigger unconscious biases. Task: We associate certain jobs with a certain type of person. Numbers: When looking at a group, like job applicants, we’re more likely to use biases to analyze people in the outlying demographics. Clarity: When information is lacking, our brains fill in the gaps with what we’re expecting. Perceiver: A heightened emotional state can keep the conscious mind distracted.
As the first two items point out, we can form a bias around the type of person we feel is suited for a job or make assumptions about certain outlying demographics when it comes to applicants. It appears this may have played a role in Surrey’s study.
So, how can this be fixed?
As with most problems, the first step is recognizing that there is an issue. The second is taking steps to understand the issue and, third, putting practices in place to help employees at all levels be aware of the issue. In the case of the Surrey study, it seems fitting that hiring managers and recruiters are prime candidates to receive such bias training first. If there is a culture of unconscious bias of not promoting or hiring because of someone’s differences, then removing that barrier and hiring a diverse workforce would show others that these unconscious biases are unwarranted or not desirable in the workplace. Additionally, we must be our own biggest advocates. Click here to get a simple guide to help you do just that at the most opportune time each year.
In addition, as Google’s training points out, there are added benefits. “Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers.” Todd Sears of OutLeadership calls this Return on Equality when referring to LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace. He and his organization have reiterated the billions of dollars being lost by corporations worldwide due to discrimination, whether blatant or unconscious.
The obvious question then is, are you and your company willing to eliminate unconscious bias to start hiring the best candidates and allowing all employees to thrive?