Sunday, August 22, 2010

Heterosexism in the Workplace (2007) - Shaun Pichler, Michigan State University - School of Labor & Industrial Relations – April 3, 2007


Before defining heterosexism and describing the extant research literature related to heterosexism in the workplace, it is important to briefly describe the scope of this entry and its boundary conditions. Given that the study of heterosexism in the management and organization literature is relatively nascent, it has yet to develop a fully international perspective. The scope of this review, therefore, is generally limited to research on heterosexism in U.S. workplaces. While a major purpose of this review is to link research on heterosexism in the workplace to work-family research, the intent of this review is not to comprehensively analyze the literature on gay and lesbian families from the family studies domain…

Basic Concepts and Definitions

Before defining heterosexism more formally, it is important to understand sexual orientation and gender identity more precisely . Kauth and Kalichman (1995) define sexual orientation as “the cumulative experience and interaction of erotic fantasy, romantic-emotional feelings, and sexual behavior directed toward one or both genders” (p. 82). Similarly, the American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation as “an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction to another person” (see These definitions emphasize the multidimensional nature of sexual orientation and are inclusive of all sexual orientations, i.e. heterosexual as well as homosexual. While sexual orientation can de defined in terms of fantasy, emotion or behavior, not all of these dimensions need be in accordance with one another. It is important to note, then, that one’s sexual identity may in fact not be determined by one’s actual sexual behavior. For instance, a man who has sex with men may still identify as heterosexual because of his emotional (i.e. romantic) feelings towards women. Other definitions of sexual orientation recognize that sexual orientation is perhaps best represented by two continuous scales, i.e. heterosexuality and homosexuality. That is, an individual can be high on both axes (i.e. bisexual), low on both axes (i.e. asexual), high on only one axis and low on the other (i.e. heterosexual or homosexual), or somewhere in between on both axes (for a review of this topic see Ragins, 2004). The term homosexual includes the term ‘gay’, which is generally used to refer to men who are homosexual, and ‘lesbian’, which is generally used to refer to women who are homosexual. Measures of sexual orientation in the management and organization literature typically rely on self-reports of one’s sexual orientation, i.e. whether or not a respondent considers himself or herself to be gay, lesbian, bisexual.

1 comment:

Mary Curlew said...

Thank you for posting our Encyclopedia entry on Heterosexism in the Workplace(Sloan Work and Family Research Network). We are so glad you found this information helpful. You may also want to check out our topic page on Single Workers and our Policy Brief on Marital Status Discrimination for even more information on this issue.