LGBT information on CV leads to discrimination

Clear evidence:

In the study, fake résumés were submitted for 100 different jobs at eight companies that are federal contractors. One showed that the applicant worked with LGBT groups, the other didn’t.

The applicant whose résumé showed LGBT ties got fewer responses than the other, even though the first applicant was better-qualified, according to the report, the results of which were released this week. Overall, “LGBT applicants were 23 percent less likely to get an interview than their less-qualified heterosexual counterparts,” Take Part reports.

18 thoughts on “LGBT information on CV leads to discrimination

  1. I wish I could say that I’m surprised, but I’m not. My partner volunteers for an LGBT group and he’s straight, so I can’t help but think about the affects that this has on allies too. I wonder how many people avoid being allies simply because they are afraid of facing descrimination.

  2. Just out of curiosity, what do people recommend doing about this as an LGBT philosopher on the job market? Cleanse one’s CV of identifying signs? Leave it as is, knowing that bias, implicit or otherwise, might knock you out of the running at some schools? If there is a past discussion of this issue I’d be grateful for a reference.

  3. I left it on and didn’t have a problem finding employment. Certainly, I hear it counted against me at the voting stage of one job (not in “official” discussions, but privately before the vote), but I had my choice of jobs in the end. I wanted it known (though *not* a topic of discussion!!) so that there weren’t going to be any surprises come tenure time.

  4. #4,

    I think a lot depends on which of the LGBTQ categories you identify with (my distinct impression is that, ceteris paribus, life is far more difficult for Ts than for Ls, and mildly more difficult for Ls than for Gs and Bs), and what you’re willing to accept in terms of jobs and life situations.

    I’m technically on the job market now, but I have a non-academic position I like and that I’d be happy sticking with. So, if some department has a big problem with who I am, I want to avoid that department entirely. I’ve got better things to do than put up with that sort of bullshit. But not everyone has that kind of leeway. If you’re committed to philosophy and you really want an academic job, my honest best advice would be to put your regular CV out there and hope for the best. Act professionally, present at conferences, publish, write a great teaching statement, and forget about the rest. The sorts of universities that make you sign Christian Loyalty Statements probably aren’t going to hire you no matter what you do to hide your LGBTQ status, and most of the other departments have at least some members with egalitarian views (and, again, the ones that don’t might be places where you don’t want to work).

    Anyway, that’s my sense of things. I think that advice will probably work better for gay men and bisexual women than for lesbians, and better for lesbians than for trans people.

  5. I’m not sure that there’s a simple answer to this question. Given how advantageous it is to have philosophical publications when applying for academic jobs, you should surely include all such publications on your CV, even if they’re on LGBT topics that will lead some old-school philosophers to dismiss them as “not real philosophy”. Similarly, I would say, all major academic service contributions (like serving on important committees of academic institutions, organizing conferences, etc.) and all non-trivial teaching contributions should be included.The risk of alienating homophobes seems less significant than the opportunity to look attractive when compared to the hundreds of other applicants whom you’ll be competing with.

    However, your CV doesn’t really have to summarize your whole life. You needn’t include activities that will be viewed by some members of the hiring committees as essentially extra-curricular, or peripheral to your central academic work. This is admittedly armchair speculation, but I would guess that some candidates may get rated less favourably because they are thought of as being more of an “activist” or “campaigner” than a “real philosopher”. Typically, hiring committees will prefer to appoint candidates who seem utterly devoted to philosophy rather candidates whose devotion to philosophy will face significant competition from other interests and commitments.

  6. Anon, I did nothing to cleanse my CV of identifying signs, though these were largely my research projects themselves (numerous of them have lgbqt themes as I do feminist philosophy and women’s studies along with ethics and political). I also mentioned my wife on every fly out I had, not really purposefully, but more because it would have been so strangely unnatural to chat with folks for hours/days about everything under the sun and go out of my way to never say “we” or to never use “my wife” instead of “we.” So if anyone could have possibly not realized from my CV, there was no question after the fly out.

    I did not seem to have a problem getting first round interviews and usually did pretty well with flyouts too. It was actually getting an offer–which year after year I failed to do–that was my problem. I did finally did land a TT job this year thank goodness! I have no way of knowing whether my sexuality or the topic of my research played a negative role in my experience on the market. I have no particular reason to think it did (other than, you know, research like that mentioned in the original post!). But in my case I also had other things that were likely to be potential triggers for implicit bias (and otherwise just were not at all conducive to my doing my best while on the market)–namely that 3 of my 5 years on the market during the APA and flyouts I was either having a somewhat difficult pregnancy, grieving a later pregnancy loss that had just occurred, pregnant again and medically unable to travel, or still breast-feeding and sleep deprived and leaving my baby for the first time. With all that in the mix I pretty much stopped giving the being lgbtq thing a second thought.

    As to what anyone else should do about their CV, I’m not sure I have much advice. It really depends on a host of factors–some of which Rachel and Matt mentioned–that are specific to your situation.

    Off topic, Matt I’m interested in what you are thinking about the Bs vs. the Ls. I would think often (though certainly not always) it wouldn’t be that possible to distinguish the Bs from the Ls from a CV or even from knowing about their partner/family. I’m a B, but I bet I’m usually assumed to be an L. My research is mostly about lgbq stuff without getting more specific and even in conversing about life, family, etc. I don’t think my specific orientation has ever come up.

  7. Thanks for posting your story, Amanda. I think it’s particularly difficult to say anything about bisexual people in the profession, because how they’re treated by others depends so heavily on whether they’re partnered and the gender of that partner. If you talk about your wife, then my guess is exactly the same as yours: people assume you’re a lesbian. My partner is a woman, and I imagine most people I meet assume I’m straight.

  8. Ralph’s advice seems perfectly sensible to me. As for question of whether there are places that won’t give you an interview or a job if they know you are lbgtq? Or would be much less likely to? Yes. Absolutely. The questions to ask yourself are: (1) what would it really be like to be, day after day, at such a place/department as an lbgtq philosopher? and (2) under what circumstances are you willing to say, ‘that’s not a price I’ll pay’ for a philosophy job?’ I think these are actually really difficult questions, but the sooner one starts to really think through them, the better.

  9. One problem is that bias can be deeply unconscious. There’s good evidence that almost all of us are negatively biased against white women, people of color, people with disabilities, etc. that certainly does not mean that we’d all create a hostile atmosphere, tell sexist jokes, and so on. BUT the bias can still play a big role in decisions, perhaps especially stressful ones.

    Unfortunately, our culture also has a lot of anti-lbtg basis.

  10. I don’t doubt that such a bias exists. But this study provides no evidence for its existence.

    The researchers submitted a pair of applications to 100 contractors advertising for a position. Only 17 advertisers called either applicant back. The “23 percent more” statistic derives from the fact that the one applicant received 16 call-backs, whereas the other received 13. Of all the advertisers who called either applicant back, the vast majority called both back.

    To the extent that the methodology and results of this study are made clear (, we can’t really conclude anything from it. The resumes were not minimally matched, and it is not clear how many of the positions were entry-level positions for which a candidate with better credentials might be viewed as over qualified. Setting those issues aside, the very low response rate means that the study is extremely underpowered. And the difference actually observed is certainly not statistically significant. Indeed, it’s not even close.

    Someone might try to argue that this null result is actually evidence against the existence of such a bias. But they would be wrong to do so, because the study is so underpowered.

    Simply put, this is an uninterpretable null result. The study addresses an important question and adopts an experimental design that seems headed in the right direction. But it was not properly executed.

  11. Hi Anne,
    I get your point, and you’re right. But I don’t think the distinction between implicit and explicit bias is particularly helpful here–ime, no one openly avows being anti-gay, or anti any of the other letters (or anti all of them). The most virulently, incontrovertibly anti-gay folks instead avow that they are not. Sometimes I think they are even sincere. Just massively, willfully, deluded. I give you Michelle Bachmann. Upshot? Sure, if you don’t “cleanse” your cv of all traces of lbgtq affiliation, you may not get jobs where the implicit bias is such that that’s a significant reason you didn’t get the job, although daily experience of having the job might not be awful (because the implicit bias in question is more along the lines of what you have in mind) . But the “implicit” bias might easily be much, much uglier than that.
    Again, though, I’d hasten to add that I really don’t think this is an easy question, and person-specific issues about what one can tolerate on a daily basis (and still work), what risks (in terms of not having a job b/c of practical considerations, say) one can reasonably take seem to me to make impossible a fully general answer to either of the questions I earlier posed.

  12. Katy, Thanks for reminding us of how complicated things can be. I remember being at a talk with a young man who was certain he was not sexist. However, he queried just about every other sentence the female speaker uttered. It was unpleasant and embarrassing. Fortunately, he could be stopped, but it is the sort of bad experience one can have with a person seemingly unaware of his sexism. And what he was doing was much less dangerous than it might have been if, e.g., it had been a job talk.

  13. I’m curious about the extent to which being lesbian may be advantageous. It looks like women who are gay, or at least have same-sex attractions, are successful—from Rachel Madow to Sally Ride. I hear the under-the-breath biological explanation: ah-ha, they aren’t seriously female—they must have some genetic-testastorone thing that makes them both attached to other women and smarter than straight women. And then there is the Motherhood Penalty which certainly comes in part because women with kids are less able to devote everything to work, but also I think because of the assumption that women who are “normal” sexually—heterosexual and have kids—are dumber, less ambitious, less able to compete with men.

    So, yeah, if a black man is gay that sends the message that he isn’t brutal, violent, aggressive and all the other things that the black-male stereotype involves. But I suspect that being lesbian sends the message that a woman isn’t all the things involved in the female stereotype. It goes back to the old Catholic dichotomy of women of nuns or breeders.

    And, as you know if you know me, I’m thoroughly heterosexual and as macho as can be. If you don’t believe it, grrrrrr, meet me outside the hotel at the next APA Pacific.

  14. Harriet, I don’t know how one could think that being a lesbian is a plus just by citing a couple prominent, successful lesbians. Both of those women, Maddow especially, have explained how their being lesbian has been a barrier in their careers. Maddow regularly gets hate mail and death threats based on being lesbian.

    Also, the image of lesbians such a view supports erases femme lesbians in a really problematic way. Not all lesbians are butch. For many of us, people can’t read our sexual orientation from how we behave (aside from, say, kissing our girlfriends in public).

    Also, lesbians have children too.

    Just…I don’t get what your comment is meant to be doing. It rings as a little homophobic to me, perpetuating really problematic stereotypes.

  15. Dr Baber– we don’t know one another, and I’m making some very serious efforts here to interpret your remarks as generously as possible. But I’m a bit shocked. To the extent women who are not straight are perceived as ‘not real women’, the relevant alternative is not “and therefore a guy”, or as you suggest “nun”. The relevant alternatives are various forms of failure on some kind of grotesque sexist-meets-heterosexist metaphysical teleology of womanhood : “perverse” , “wrong”, “just not right”, “dangerous”, and “needs to be fixed” (where the latter comes with sometimes explicit threats of rape as ‘cure’) .To borrow from De Beauvoir, one is not a woman born, and on the heterosexist standards of what it is to become a woman, every non-straight woman has become for that reason something less-than a woman.
    I will perhaps say more tomorrow; right now I’m too tried, and frankly, stunned. For the moment, I only want to add this: for my own part, while I’ve had a host of irritating and a few pretty nasty experiences of sexism to date in my philosophical career, my experiences of heterosexism in this field have been *a million* times worse. OF course, ymmv. But I do know quite a few fellow queer women in the field, and I gotta say…

  16. Look, I am not endorsing the nuns-or-breeders stereotype: I’m saying that it exists. And I’ve been smacked with it because I’ve on a number of occasions had people—never LGBT people—assume I was a lesbian. And I’ve sometimes gotten the distinct sense that they wish I were because then they wouldn’t have to rethink their notions of gender and sexuality—because they’d have to recognize that someone who is by their standards a “real woman” could be as butch as me. Isn’t there a speech by Sojourner Truth to that effect? “Ain’t I a woman?”

    As far as the resume operation, as it turns out mentioning religious affiliation or activities on a resume is bad too. And that means any religious affiliation except, it turns out, being Jewish. In fact in the Bible Belt mentioning Evangelical affiliation counts against you.

    And why? I suspect because employers who see religious affiliation on a resume are worried that the applicant is an ideologue who has axes to grind. And I’d bet that the same thing is going on when it comes to mentioning sexual orientation.

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