Study examines link between sexual orientation and pay

The disparities in pay among working U.S. men and women are often highlighted when discussing cases of employment discrimination against women. Less discussed, however, are the disparities in pay that exist between gay and heterosexual employees.

A recent Canadian study that appears in the May issue of the journal Gender and Society, revealed that there are notable differences in pay among gay and heterosexual men and lesbian and heterosexual women. At the top of the pay scale are heterosexual men who out-earn their gay male counterparts by an average of five percent. For women, the tables turn with lesbians out-earning heterosexual women by roughly eight percent.

While this particular study used data from Canadian residents, researchers note that similar pay patterns exist and persist in the U.S. What's more, the higher the salary, the wider the pay gap. For example, gay men in senior management positions reported earning an average annual salary of $121,000; whereas the annual salaries of heterosexual men in similar positions were significantly higher at $183,000.

Researchers and social scientists debate the reasons behind the apparent wage gaps between gay and heterosexual men and women. Some point to either a "conscious or unconscious bias" in hiring, promotion and compensation practices and policies. Others argue that, when it comes to pay, gay men may not push as hard, knowing they can rely on a partner's equally high salary while lesbian women push harder to earn more, knowing that a partner will likely earn less.

Currently, there is no federal law "that prohibits employers from discrimination against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity." As such, employers openly practice and routinely continue to engage in hiring and compensation practices that are viewed by many as being discriminatory in nature.

Source: The Atlantic, "Unequal Pay: The Gay Wage Gap," Joe Pinsker, June 17, 2015

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