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Thursday, 22 May 2014

What role does sexual orientation play in the public service?

By Gregory B. Lewis and Eddy Ng

Three things you need to know about GLBTQs (sexual minorities):

  1. GLBTQs are more likely than heterosexuals to prefer public and nonprofit sector employment.

  2. GLBTQ career goals and work values predict stronger desire for public and nonprofit sector jobs than heterosexuals.

  3. GLBTQs expect to pay a smaller penalty for working in the public and nonprofit sectors.

Three myths about GLBTQs:

Myth #1: GLBTQs might also avoid government jobs because they fear greater discrimination in the public sector, perhaps because of government’s history of explicit bans on employment of GLBTQs.

The Reality: In 1969, PM Trudeau decriminalized homosexual acts.  Today, GLBTQs are more likely than heterosexuals to prefer public and nonprofit employment, as they expect stronger protection from discrimination in the public sector.

Myth #2: GLBTQs are stereotypically hedonistic and are motivated by extrinsic rather than intrinsic rewards, and thus do not find public service to be attractive.

The Reality: GLBTQs are more likely to have the altruistic values that impel people toward government and nonprofit work, to list contributing to society as one of their top three early career goals, and to rate employers’ commitment to social responsibility and employee diversity highly in assessing first jobs.

Myth #3: Individuals who preferred government or nonprofit work expect to earn less than those headed to the private sector.

The Reality: Although straight men expect large pay penalties in both government and nonprofit jobs, and straight women expect small penalties, GBTQ men who prefer public or nonprofit employment do not expect to earn less than GBTQ men who prefer the private sector, and GLBTQ women only expect to pay a penalty in nonprofit jobs.

To learn more about this topic, see the authors' full-length study: "Sexual orientation, work values, pay, and preference for public and nonprofit employment: Evidence from Canadian postsecondary students." Canadian Public Administration 56(2): 542-564.

Gregory B. Lewis is a professor of public management and policy and the chair of the department in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.  After receiving his doctorate in public administration at Syracuse University, he taught at the University of Georgia and American University before joining the faculty of the Andrew Young School.  He has published widely on the impact of sex, race, and sexual orientation on the career patterns of public employees.  His research on lesbian and gay rights includes several studies on public opinion, as well as work on the impact of government policies on the employment and pay of lesbians and gay men.

Eddy Ng is F.C. Manning Chair in Economics and Business, and Associate Professor of Management in the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on managing diversity for organizational competitiveness, the changing nature of work and organizations, and managing the millennial workforce. His work has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Canadian Studies grants. 

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