How Do Stereotypes of Sexuality and Gender Influence LGBT Career Construction?

  • Ashley Williams

Student thesis: Phd


Stereotypes contribute to workplace inequality by creating biased negative evaluations of individuals' performance, resulting in discriminatory action. However, the impact of such stereotypes is not limited to externally imposed limitations on one's capability, but also extends to vocational decisions based upon perceived career barriers. By impacting assessment of suitable roles, stereotypes discourage pursual of certain occupations due to perceived role incongruity. Implicit Inversion Theory suggests that stereotypes of lesbians and gay men are typically the opposite of those held about their heterosexual equivalents, as lesbian women are stereotyped as masculine and gay men are stereotyped as feminine. Such stereotypes have been shown to lead to discrimination in the hiring process, however little is known about how the internalisation of such stereotypes impacts perceptions of careers, and how this translates into their career experiences. Further, very little is currently known about stereotypes of bisexual and transgender individuals. This thesis describes the exploration of the impact of internalised stereotypes on the career experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, with a focus on perceptions of career barriers throughout their vocational trajectories. Forty narrative career interviews with LGBT professionals across both public and private sector organisations were conducted to collect the data. These interviews were informed by the drawing of timelines depicting identity and career development, which were constructed by the participant during the interview and developed throughout the discussion. Thematic analysis of the narrative data identified that perception of dissimilarity between personal and occupational stereotypes led to different career perceptions for individuals within the sample. However, career impact was dependent upon the types of stereotypes internalised, which differed based upon sexual and/or gender identity. For lesbians, stereotypes based upon reduced femininity led to pressure to conform to heterosexual presentation and appearance, and feeling that this was essential to be successful in a professional work environment. Gay men who internalised stereotypes of reduced masculinity perceived many different forms of career barriers within masculine work environments, such as not fitting in, risk of bullying and discrimination, and barriers to progression. Bisexual participants felt they needed to craft their careers toward liberal work environments where colleagues are less likely to hold negative stereotypes regarding the legitimacy of their sexuality. For transgender individuals, stereotypes related to gender non-conformity translated into abandonment of career aspirations and decisions to pursue careers in occupations without a prominent stereotype. Further, the extent to which actual career experiences reflect such perceptions was dependent upon the experience of identity development, as well as generational and locational differences. This research contributes to the progression of LGBT career equality by extending existing theories of careers to include LGBT individuals, and also by demonstrating the importance of inclusive career narratives and work environments for the successful simultaneous development of LGBT identity and careers.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHelge Hoel (Supervisor) & Anne Mcbride (Supervisor)

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