Guys with a stereotypically “gay sounding” voice are likely to be paid less and passed over for leadership positions by their straight male counterparts.
LGBT discrimination in the workplace is nothing new, but now there’s hard data to support it. A person with a “gay voice” has a far greater chance of being skipped for that promotion that he’s been pining for, according to a new study published in the Archives of Sexual behavior.
In the four-part study, heterosexual listeners were exposed to single-sentence voice samples of gay, lesbian and heterosexual speakers. During all of the studies, listeners made gender-typical inferences about traits and preferences of heterosexual speakers. However, when it came to gay or lesbian sounding voices, they made gender-atypical inferences about them. In other words, if a man sounded gay, then the straight listeners judged his qualifications differently from the other “straight-sounding” men.
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“The participants had minimal information about the candidates,” Dr. Fabio Fasoli of the University of Surrey told Broadly. “Just a short audio file saying, ’Hello, I’m Mark, I’m 32 years old.’ Then we’d manipulate the voice electronically, so that half sounded [stereotypically] straight, and half sounded [stereotypically] gay. The participants didn’t know anything about the actual sexual orientation of the person, they were only exposed to a voice commonly perceived as gay or straight-sounding.”
Straight men distance themselves from men with a “gay voice”.
The study measured behavioral intention, which showed that straight listeners considered lesbian and gay speakers as less suitable for a leadership position—and male (but not female) listeners distanced themselves from gay speakers. This research demonstrates that having a “gay voice” rather than heteronormative voice has real-world consequences of stereotyping and discrimination.
“These results demonstrate that the mere sound of a voice is sufficient to trigger stereotyping, denying gay- and lesbian-sounding speakers the qualities that are considered typical of their gender,” Dr. Fabio Fasoli, the study’s lead researcher, said in a statement.
“It is revealing, that despite all the work to lessen discrimination against the LGBT community, people subconsciously typecast an individual before getting to know them. This study highlights that it can be a real problem in the workplace and for people’s career prospects.” Fasoli added.
This study was conducted in Italian, but it would probably be the same with English speakers. David Thorpe, the filmmaker behind the documentary “Do I Sound Gay?,” which explores the existence of the stereotypical “gay voice,” told NBC that he “wouldn’t be surprised if that study played out similarly in the U.S.”
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