Corporate Attitudes towards Gays and Lesbians in the Workplace

By O'Hara, Lisa; McPherson, Bill | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Corporate Attitudes towards Gays and Lesbians in the Workplace


O'Hara, Lisa, McPherson, Bill, Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

In preparing future employees for work in business, many business communication courses discuss corporate cultures. Many business communication authors have stressed the need for students to be successful in today's workforce they must understand corporate culture. One culture that there appears to be a dearth of literature in business communication textbooks are preparing future employees to work with gays and lesbians as a culture in corporate America. The research focused on asking business professionals about their perceptions and attitudes towards gays and lesbians in the workplace. Information gathered from the study will provide business communication faculty will curricula teaching students to work with this specific culture in the workplace.

Literature Review

Many human resource managers ignore the issues that affect gays and lesbians in the workplace, to avoid resistance from other managers and employees, and also because they lack education about such issues. Consequently, HR policy decisions regarding homosexual employees may be based on stereotypes and misinformation. In such cases, a significant segment of the workforce--gay men and lesbians--becomes the object of discrimination (Lucas & Kaplan, 1994).

The gay and lesbian rights movement has spilled over into the workplace as well as into other social arenas. Management will have to take steps to diffuse any potential problems arising from the controversial issues involved. Business students as future professionals will be faced with working with gays and lesbians in their organizations. A study that ascertains what the current climate is for gays and lesbians and what strategies, information, and training can be provided to current business undergraduates is certainly merited. With this context in mind, the following study was undertaken. Instrumentation

The population for the study was business professionals listed on the Career Services list of a state-supported four-year university in the Northwest section of Pennsylvania. A total population of 523 was mailed. This study followed a descriptive research design using survey methods with statistical treatments. The design was a cross-sectional survey.

The "total design method" (TDM) suggested by Dillman (1978) was used as a guide. Each of the potential participants received a coded survey packet containing the following items: (1) Cover letter describing the study and an outline of the procedures to be followed; (2) The research instrument (a researcher created scale) entitled "An analysis of attitudes and perceptions towards gays and lesbians in corporate settings," and (3) A self-addressed stamped envelope was included for the convenience of the respondent to encourage greater participation (Dillman, 1978).

Data Analysis

Data for scores from the Likert scale were scored through the use of the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences for Windows (SPSS+ for Microcomputers, release 4.0); statistical tests were performed on the data from the scale. Descriptive and comparative analyses were made.

Findings

A total of 251 people responded to the survey. There were 8 surveys that were not usable. The total usable responses were 243 (a 46% response rate). Table 1 posed the question concerning anti-gay attitudes in the workplace and Table 2 focused on asking the business professionals specific questions related to attitudes towards gays and lesbians in the workplace. The questions covered the following areas: management, supervisory and entry level workers, negative comments and joke telling, and the need to address gays issues in their careers. Table 3 findings relate to questions, which focused on a range of topics that included the relationship between sexual orientation and a variety of variables (career choice, stressful situations, networks, team playing, and promotion). See issue's website

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