Journal Frankfurt News – Speech L

Women are disadvantaged in our society. But what about the situation of lesbian women in working life? There have been few studies on this so far. Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences provided insights last year.

What do Jodie Foster, Anne Weil and Hella von Senenn have in common? They are successful lesbian women. Women still have tough times in their careers: They have to listen to sexist comments, earn an average of 18 percent less than men and work part-time more often in order to balance family and work. Lesbian women experience discrimination on two levels. They are affected not only by sexism, but also by homophobia. The technical term for this is multifaceted discrimination.

A research team led by Regen Graml and with Tobias Hagen and Yvonne Ziegler from Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Frankfurt UAS) devoted themselves to this very topic last year. “So far, there have been only a few studies on the special status of working lesbian women, and most of them study either career opportunities for women or those of homosexuals,” explains Gramel, who has been studying, as a business economist. Gender issues in the context of management and gender at Frankfurt UAS for many years has been taught and taught in the field of leadership.

What are the chances of lesbian applicants?

In the study, “The L-Word in Business,” the team examined the application opportunities of lesbian women and asked them about their job satisfaction. “The L-Word in Business” was launched by Wirtschaftsweibern – a national network of successful lesbians and women; The project was funded by the Magnus Hirschfeld Federal Foundation (BMH). The study makers conducted the study in 2017 and 2019 at Frankfurt UAS. In the first part, the researchers conducted a correspondence experiment: they created dummy apps, some of which gave indications that the fictitious applicant was a lesbian, such as stating marital status as “registered civil partnership” or participating in LSBTIQ* (“LSBTIQ*” stands for “lesbian, gay and bisexual”). In the meantime, the heterosexual applicant’s resume included the marital status of “married.” A total of 294 identical applications were sent, half of which were lesbian and half of the heterosexual applicant. The evaluation showed that The gay candidate received lower third positive feedback such as invitations to interviews, inquiries, or alternative job offers.

“This tendency to discriminate against lesbian applicants compared to heterosexual applicants is astonishing given that heterosexual applicants are married and have no children,” Graml explains. “According to heterogeneous ideas, for the foreseeable future, young and married heterosexual women are expected to have professional leave related to children and possibly reduced working hours in the long run and more lost days.” Rejecting a gay applicant despite stereotypes is assumed to be less likely to be a mother – according to Graml, this is an indicator of a tendency to discriminate against lesbian applicants.

Sexism vs. Homophobia

For the second part of the L-Word study, decision makers asked lesbian and transgender women online about their professional life experiences. In the randomized study, the answers of 1952 respondents (713 lesbian, 1239 heterosexual) were evaluated in terms of content. “The online survey was not random and therefore not representative,” notes Yvonne Ziegler, one of the study authors. Lesbian participants in the study also had above-average qualifications and most held management positions. The survey revealed that a clear majority of all women, 78 percent, feel disadvantaged because of their gender. Fifty-one percent of lesbian women reported experiencing discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

One finding that surprised Ziegler was that job opportunities and attractive wages were less important for gay women than straight women. “Public perception sometimes gives the impression that lesbian women tend to be more career-oriented,” Ziegler says. One explanation for the contradictory study result could be that heterosexual women in the marital family earn less than their partners; They work often and are mostly responsible for household chores and raising children. Profitable work must be justified by high wages and career opportunities.

“Lesbians Don’t Fall For Any Stereotypes”

In contrast, the answers regarding family and job compatibility seem less surprising: dissatisfaction on this point was higher among heterosexual women than among lesbians. Ziegler suspects that this may be due to the fact that many heterogeneous relationships are not organized on the basis of partnership. “In same-sex relationships there is no stereotype that you can fall into – according to the motto: the man works and the woman takes care of the children. This image is still socially proposed in classic heterogeneous relationships ”, says the researcher. This is not the case in a relationship between two women, according to Ziegler.

A key finding of the survey is that lesbian women experience discrimination in the workplace more often because of their gender (38 percent) than their gender identity (16 percent). Our study provides evidence that lesbian women experience discrimination when entering the workforce through selection processes and in the course of their professional activity. It is interesting to note that lesbian women experience discrimination on the basis of sex more often than discrimination on the basis of their gender identity,” summarizes Grammel.

This was also confirmed by Sandra B. *, who would like to remain anonymous. The lesbian works as a software developer at an IT company and doesn’t complain about anti-gay rhetoric: “In my career, I’ve had more flaws because I’m a woman than because of my sexual orientation,” says the 29-year-old. So far she has never experienced discrimination in the IT industry – even though she works in a male-dominated field. However, she struggled with sexism in a part-time job while studying as a saleswoman behind a shop counter a few years ago: “I had a couple of co-workers who cracked inappropriate women’s jokes and dragged me into it,” the woman recalls.

Sandra b. Outside of her IT job – which means she’s open about being a lesbian. “I don’t hide my sexual orientation as a big secret, but I don’t adorn myself with it either,” she says. If she directs the conversation towards the topic of the partner, then she makes it clear that she lives with her friend and that she loves women. “Other than that, I don’t feel the need to stress that out in a professional context,” she says.

She never received anti-gay reactions for being a lesbian. But the following often happens: “If I mention my girlfriend, who I also live with, a lot of people automatically think I’m going to live with a good friend in a flat sharing. If I correct that afterwards, it creates a weird moment,” says Sandra B. There are heterogeneous expectations, you suspect.

inside or outside?

Unlike Sandra P., there are some women who don’t work – they hide their gender identities or even pretend to be straight. In the L-Word study, eight percent of the people surveyed. “Lesbian women want to get out and need the right work environment they can be in,” says Yvonne Ziegler. This is why it is important to her when searching for a job that companies are open to diversity and accept the LGBTIQ community*. In principle, there is still discrimination against women in German companies – “maybe a little more on the sexual level, because gender is simply more pronounced than sexual orientation,” the researcher suspects.

So what can employers do to create a friendly atmosphere not only for lesbians, but for all groups that experience discrimination? The study provides concrete instructions for action: “It is important for companies to report ‘unconscious bias,'” Ziegler teaches. Understandably, this means unconscious stereotypes that lead to discriminatory actions, because discrimination does not usually occur intentionally or on purpose. There are training courses Especially for this purpose, in which stereotypes are reversed to make them seem absurd. Anonymous hiring procedures can counteract unconscious bias. As a result, applicant traits come to the fore. In addition, the creation of LGBTIQ networks* within companies is useful for preventing discrimination and for ensuring safety for those affected in a setting. the work.


This text first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Journal Frankfurt.

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