Researchers Say There Is a 'Gay Glass Ceiling' in Corporate Leadership

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday January 31, 2023

Researchers Say There Is a 'Gay Glass Ceiling' in Corporate Leadership
  (Source:Getty Images)

A research study from the University of Sydney found that gay men have another bias to battle. According to the study, "feminine-presenting" men are often passed up for promotions. But the kicker is heterosexual men and gay men are often complicit in the bias.

As reported by The Guardian, the study's lead author explained that "there is a strong association between gayness and femininity."

Ben Gerrard, the study's lead author, explained, "Many gay men grow up with an unconscious idea that gayness is bad, so they may consciously or unconsciously suppress feminine traits."

Published in the journal Sex Roles, researchers asked 256 Australian men (half who are gay, and half who are heterosexual) to select a gay man to represent Sydney in a mock tourism campaign. "They were shown videos of six gay, white male actors performing the same short script in two ways: with their body language and voice adjusted to appear more feminine and with their performance delivered in a more traditionally masculine style," Guardian reports. "Participants were asked to choose the candidate they thought people would most admire and think of as a leader."

The results of the study found that gay men and heterosexual men were more likely to cast the more masculine-presenting man. Which means, despite being faced with the same prejudices and biases, gay men were found to be "complicit" in fueling those stereotypes.

Gerrard, who recently played the lead role in "American Psycho: The Musical" at the Sydney Opera House, was reportedly inspired to investigate this level of prejudice towards feminine-presenting men based on his experiences as an actor.

He explained that he is concerned that media depictions of gay men aren't really reflective, with many gay roles being given to straight actors.

Masculinity as a more desirable form of leadership is a wider issue, explained Lisa Annese, the CEO of Diversity Council Australia.

Although she says she is "not surprised" by the study's findings, its a double-edged sword for women, who are often penalized for being too masculine but passed over because of a perception that women aren't strong enough to be leaders.

Traditional leadership training courses can often perpetuate the idea that masculine forms of leadership are beneficial, Annese explained.

"Many courses focus on encouraging 'shapeshifting' into other forms of behavior. What we need is to create workplaces where we have a range of diverse leadership representations and everyone can be their authentic selves," she says.

Gerrard added, "Only when we demand a diverse range of representations can we truly have acceptance for our community."