The paradox of the lesbian worker

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Common sense might suggest that lesbian workers are doubly disadvantaged due to their gender and their stigmatized sexual orientation. But empirical research documents that lesbian workers earn more than their heterosexual women peers. This article considers two reasons for the economic advantage of lesbian workers. First, because lesbians must provide for themselves and their children, they may pursue nontraditional, higher-paying jobs and show increased work motivation. Second, stereotypes may depict lesbians, including lesbian mothers, as competent and committed workers. A review of available research is augmented with data from a study of 162 college students. Results indicate that motherhood detracts from the perceived work commitment and competence of heterosexual mothers but not lesbian mothers. Directions for future research are considered.


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Peplau, L. A. & Fingerhut, A. (2004). The paradox of the lesbian worker. Journal of Social Issues, 60, 719-735. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-4537.2004.00382.x