Surprise, Study Confirms Hiring Discrimination Against LGBT People Is Real

The Equal Rights Center has found — perhaps unsurprisingly, but nonetheless, depressingly — that people who indicate that they have worked for LGBT causes on their resumes are 23% less likely to land a job interview than people who don’t.

Only if you left your Autostraddle internship off your CV... via Shutterstock

Only if you left your Autostraddle internship off your CV… via Shutterstock

The study sent resumes of nonexistent people to over 100 different openings at eight companies. Some applicants listed “LGBT rights activism” in a volunteer section of their resumes. Others listed “women’s rights activism” or “environmental activism.” The LGBT activists were slightly more qualified than the others, and yet, were called for interviews far less often.

The targeted companies all have contracts with the federal government, and also have elected to exclude sexual orientation from their nondiscrimination policies. Tico Alameida, President of Freedom to Work said they wanted to expose the hiring practices of these companies because, “Taxpayers should never have to subsidize the kind of anti-LGBT discrimination that was uncovered during this year-long study of contractors with inadequate LGBT workplace protections.” This study draws attention to precisely the issue President Obama aims to address with his forthcoming executive order banning LGBT employment discrimination by federal contractors.

via Freedom to Work

via Freedom to Work

Of course, different potential employers will have different desires, and it’s a constant negotiation to judge where and when disclosing sexual orientation or gender identity works against us, or is actually taken as a strength by potential employers. It’s important to consider the implications of this study, especially considering it only looks at giant corporations that have contracts with the federal government. Not everyone is invested in the fight for the right to work at companies that produce oil and tanks and other mechanisms of war and climate change. But we can hope that this study can help draw attention to a greater problem of unemployment and underemployment for LGBT people nation-wide and work to reduce that burden that our communities bear.

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Autostraddle staff writer. Copy editor. Fledgling English muffin maker. Temporary turtle parent. Zine creator. Swings enthusiast. Political human who cares a lot about healthcare and queer anti-carceral feminisms. I asked my friend to help me write this bio and they said, "Good-natured. Friend. Earth tones." Another friend said, "Flannel babe. Vacuum lover. Kind." So. Find me on Twitter or my website.

Maddie has written 100 articles for us.


  1. This is a great article. I used to work in HR for a large corporation that followed Affirmative Action guidelines. We had to automatically disqualify any applications that indicated any protected status (gender, race, sexual orientation). Although I remember there was an applicant that listed previous work at an LGBT community center and both I and my non-lgbt boss thought that was great, and he ended up getting the job.

    • I’m not from the US, so I’m not quite sure I understand how Affirmative Action works there, but why would it entail disqualifying people with protected status? Isn’t that the opposite of Affirmative Action?

    • I am also confused by this. And how do you hide your gender on an application, as most people’s first names are gendered?

    • We had to disqualify people that specifically stated in their application that they were a member of a specific group. Yes, names are usually an indication of gender, so we had to ensure that we were considering all candidates based on qualifications alone. If we chose “Steven” over “Michelle”, we had to be very careful that Steven was the more qualified candidate.

  2. No sh*t it’s real. And if you’re visibly trans it’s not only real but is likely to put you out of the ranks of the “currently unemployed” and into the “altogether unemployable” category. And the reality is, virtually none of the state or city non-discrimination policies actually cover issues of getting hired (unless it’s a very rare situation where you interview presenting as one gender, get hired, transition, and are then fired… that was the situation in the Macy v. Holder case). ENDA as it’s proposed is about workers who are currently employed and completely leaves out the hiring process. Most importantly, large sections of the US workforce are now increasingly employed as either contractors, temps or freelancers and none of those categories are specifically covered by virtually any of the legislation. The recent Obama Executive Order is a small step forward but I’m not convinced it’s going to really cover what’s going on in the hiring process. Btw, I believe the stats put out by the “Injustice at every turn” survey are questionable. They under-surveyed communities of color which were most likely to be impacted by chronic unemployment nor did they really discuss the high degree of under-employment in the trans community.

    • I always love your comments. You’re so on point.

      And yes, all this. I hate it a lot. Especially the trans discrimination in the hiring process, since I have the added difficulty of keeping a job because of my mental health issues. If it’s hard to get a job, getting fired is a lot more terrifying, and more stress in my life leads to an increased likelihood of me getting fired, because stress + anxiety disorder => panic attacks => missing work, being late, no call/no shows, decreased efficiency at work, weaker immune system, etc.

      It sucks a lot. I have been fired from both of the “real” jobs I’ve had, one of them just yesterday, and I’m living in a hotel because I couldn’t find an affordable apartment before the time limit for living with my parents was up. I have less than $2000 to my name, and I got into a car wreck last week that probably totaled my car.

      Overshare, overshare.

      Adding trans to all that is really stressful.

  3. This article encompasses SO many of my own concerns.

    I hate that I have feelings of dread surrounding LinkedIn and my online portfolio. That caption about leaving Autostraddle work off your CV hits me right in the gut. I have never omitted this work from my portfolio, because I figure any company that searches for my writing will get an eyeful of queer anyway.

    As ginapdx points out, freelancers do not enjoy the same protections as traditional employees. This terrifies me. I find myself wondering about an alternate reality in which I search for projects without mentioning clips related to gender and sexuality. Would I have landed work with better pay? The fact that I have to wonder makes me sick.

  4. Did they control for the fact that hirers might be reluctant to hire someone “overqualified”? I know from experience that can be a problem, and if the LGB candidates presented were all more highly qualified, I could see that biasing the results.

    • I thought the same thing! Maybe they didn’t contact the “overqualified” candidate because they would have to pay her more?

    • I wondered that too. Why did they put those other variables in? Shouldn’t those be controls?

  5. I hate this shit. Like, I already have to deal with discrimination based on my womanness (which has been overwhelmingly proven time and again to be a thing) and assumptions about my physical ability and/or whether I’m just going to get married and leave or get pregnant, use maternity leave, then leave, etc etc. But my race and my orientation add even more layers. So, I may not get hired because I’m gay, but even if I am hired, I’ll be paid less because I’m a woman (70c to the dollar)and a Latina/ndn woman (50c or less to the dollar). And then I’ll have to deal with racism/homophobia/sexism in the workplace beyond that. So I’m screwed all around, and I’m clearly not the only gay woman of color out there.
    So this is an incredibly multifaceted issue, and one that should be addressed. But the Equal Pay Act did nothing, so who really knows.
    Fuck everything.

  6. I finally made an account so I could comment on how happy this makes me to work somewhere where lgbtq and gender activism is a plus in potential candidates. I know it’s a small drop in the ocean, but every time I get to include a line of interview questions on bi and trans activism in my interviews, I hope two little fuzzy bunnies get hugs. <3

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