New research provides evidence that having a gay- or lesbian-sounding voice can have tangible consequences on a person’s job prospects. The study, published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, indicates that discrimination based on one’s voice may be particularly harmful for women perceived as lesbian.
“Voice is a minimal cue that people use, consciously or unconsciously, to make inferences about others. Stereotypes about voice exist too. I am therefore interested in examining how minimal cues such as voice can affect listeners’ perception and discrimination,” said study author Fabio Fasoli, a lecturer in social psychology at the University of Surrey.
“Gaydar is usually defined as the ability to correctly guess who is gay and who is heterosexual from such minimal clues. As a consequence of gaydar, discrimination can occur when sexual orientation is inferred from a person’s behavior during the hiring process,” the researchers wrote in their study.
The researchers found that gay-sounding men and especially lesbian-sounding women were viewed as less competent than their heterosexual-sounding counterparts, which in turn was associated with them being rated as less suitable for jobs and ranked lower in employability. Contrary to expectations, lesbian-sounding women did not have an advantage when applying to stereotypically masculine job positions.
“A stereotype about ‘gay voice’ exists and affects people’s impression and reactions. Voice can thus lead to subtle forms of discrimination in the hiring process. Although there is not a shared stereotype about the ‘lesbian voice,’ women who sound ‘lesbian’ are at higher risk of discrimination,” Fasoli told PsyPost.