University and college teachers are more likely to be gay than people working in most other types of job, researchers have suggested.
Drawing on data from the US, they found that of nearly 500 occupations, post-secondary teachers had the ninth highest proportion of gay men and lesbian women.
They judged that lecturers are required to have above-average social perceptiveness, and have relatively high degrees of work independence – traits common in jobs with high numbers of gay and lesbian workers.
Explaining why, the study suggests that they may have developed better than average social perceptiveness because they have had to deal with prejudice from an early age.
“Awareness and anticipation of others’ reactions and mental states – whether they are patients in a healthcare setting, passengers on a plane, audience members in a theatre, or students in a classroom – are relatively important components of many such jobs,” says “Concealable stigma and occupational segregation: toward a theory of gay and lesbian occupations”, published in Administrative Science Quarterly.
Working independently of others is attractive because it gives gay and lesbian employees more control over whether or not to come out to colleagues, it argues.
The findings confirmed that a number of stereotypes – such as gay men being disproportionately likely to be flight attendants and hairdressers, and lesbians working as truck drivers – are borne out by the statistics. Psychologists were the professionals most likely to be gay or lesbian.
It concludes that if societies become more tolerant, the link between certain jobs and homosexuality may fade – but only slowly.
In the UK, the LGBT charity Stonewall last week named 12 universities among its 100 most gay-friendly employers.
This is the highest ever share for higher education institutions in the group’s annual list.
Cardiff University was the highest ranked university, in 20th place. Stonewall said that the institution’s senior management had shown significant support for staff and student lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender societies.