Navigating Pronoun Disclosure: Impact on LGBTQ+ Job Seekers

In a world striving for inclusivity and acceptance, job seekers from the LGBTQ+ community face a unique challenge – the inclusion of pronouns on their CVs may lead to fewer job opportunities.

A recent study, conducted by Taryn Eames, a University of Toronto economics PhD student, sheds light on this issue, revealing the stark reality that job seekers, particularly those identifying with non-binary pronouns, face when navigating the hiring process.

The study, published in SSRN, marks a pioneering effort in scrutinizing hiring discrimination based on pronoun disclosure. Eames and her team meticulously submitted 7,970 fictitious CVs to job vacancies spanning 15 occupations across six major U.S. cities. By systematically pairing CVs – one with pronouns disclosed and one without – the researchers gained valuable insights into the prevalence of bias across various industries, from corporate giants to local businesses.

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The findings of the study were alarming. Candidates who bravely shared their non-binary pronouns, such as they/them, received significantly fewer responses compared to their presumed-cisgender counterparts. What’s more, the act of pronoun disclosure, irrespective of the pronouns used, led to diminished interest from employers.

Eames highlighted the compounded discrimination faced by individuals with multiple minority identities, especially when applying for traditionally gendered occupations. The study demonstrated that when females applied for male-dominated roles and disclosed they/them pronouns, positive employer response rates plummeted by up to 11.8 percentage points. Similarly, males applying for female-dominated occupations faced a similar trend of discrimination.

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Geographical disparities further exacerbated the issue, with discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals varying widely across regions and often being influenced by political leanings. The report found that discrimination against candidates using they/them pronouns was approximately double in Republican-leaning areas compared to Democrat cities.

Pronoun disclosure, the study suggested, carries political signals and may be perceived as unprofessional by some employers. Despite inconclusive evidence regarding discrimination against presumed cisgender applicants who disclose pronouns, Eames asserted that meaningful discrimination against applicants using they/them pronouns during the hiring process exists.

As job seekers from the LGBTQ+ community navigate the already challenging terrain of employment, the findings of this study underscore the importance of fostering environments where diversity is celebrated, not sidelined. Only through continued awareness, advocacy, and research can strides toward genuine inclusivity in the workplace be made.

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