Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Sexual Orientation, Work Values, Pay, and Preference for Public and Nonprofit Employment: Evidence from Canadian Postsecondary Students

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Sexual Orientation, Work Values, Pay, and Preference for Public and Nonprofit Employment: Evidence from Canadian Postsecondary Students

Article excerpt

As a stigmatized minority, GLBTQs (gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers (1)) have struggled for decades to strengthen their voice in government. One path to policy impact that particularly interests scholars of public administration is public employment, as minority representation in the workforce can increase the quality of services government provides to minorities. Government jobs also reward workers in a variety of ways, including middle-class pay, job security, pensions, health insurance, and the opportunity to be useful to society.

GLBTQs have historically faced obstacles to full representation in both the US and Canadian public service. Partnered gay men remain underrepresented in US governments, perhaps due to systemic or lingering personal discrimination, but perhaps also due to GLBTQs' preferences, because their career goals and work values do not align well with public service or because they expect more discrimination in the public sector. We don't know whether GLBTQs are also under-represented in the Canadian public service, but we can test whether GLBTQs' values and perceptions pose an obstacle to government employment.

Using two large surveys of potential future government employees (university and college students), we address three questions: (1) Do GLBTQs and heterosexuals differ in their preferences for public, nonprofit, and private sector employment? (2) Do GLBTQ-heterosexual differences in career goals and work values explain differences in their preferred sectors of employment? (3) Do GLBTQs expect more discrimination in the public sector? We find that GLBTQs want public and nonprofit sector jobs more than heterosexuals do, that their career goals and work values align better with public and nonprofit jobs than do those of heterosexuals; and that GLBTQs expect less discrimination in the public and nonprofit sectors than in the private, for-profit sector. If GLBTQs are under-represented in Canadian governments, lack of desire is not likely to be the explanation.


Although Canada is at the forefront of human rights for GLBTQs today, it has not always protected the interests of gays and lesbians. During the Cold War, the Canadian government attempted to root out homosexuals from federal offices, partly to appease the US government and partly to quell fears that homosexuals posed a threat to national security (Kinsman 1995). This investigation was done even in offices where security risks were low, such as the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Department of Public Works, and the Unemployment Insurance Commission (Robinson and Kimmel 1994). Gays and lesbians outside the public service were investigated because they might later seek government employment. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in collaboration with psychologist Robert Wake, invented the 'fruit machine' to detect homosexuality by measuring eye movements of people shown hetero- and homoerotic pictures (Beeby 1992; Kinsman 1995). Government officials referred to gays as practising criminals because homosexual acts were a crime under the Criminal Code (McLeod 1996).

In 1969, the Liberal government under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults, but it wasn't until 1995 in Egan v. Canada, that sexual orientation was read into the Charter of Rights and Freedom (Wintemute 2003). Other important public policy changes in the areas of family and employment law followed, including adding sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1996 (Nierobisz, Searl, and Theroux 2008). The federal Employment Equity Act, however, which prohibits discrimination in access to jobs with the federal government and federally regulated industries, was not extended to GLBTQs. Numerous open GLBTQs have held elected office, including openly gay cabinet ministers and a provincial premier (Robinson 2013), but as a small minority, GLBTQs lack the political resources to pass legislation promoting their interests without strong allies (Sherrill 1996). …

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