Sunday, June 10, 2007

Book Review: Straight Jobs, Gay Lives

While students at Harvard Business School, Annette Friskopp and Sharon Silverstein surveyed gay and lesbian alumni of HBS and interviewed 100 gay and lesbian people in depth about being gay or lesbian and their work lives. The stories from their interviews became the book Straight Jobs Gay Lives.

I've been reading this book for a long time because it is a lot of stories to take in, and it's a lot of gross business practices to process. I don't think it's possible to extrapolate the findings from a group of HBS grads to the rest of the world, but the book is interesting all the same.

Here are a few key points, some of which may seem obvious, and some of which may surprise you (my editorial notes are in parens):

1. People in the study who concealed their sexual orientation ran the risk of being blackmailed in the business environment.

2. Sexual harrassment was much less a problem for gay men in the study than for lesbians.

3. When someone in the study was outed at work, the person doing the outing was more likely gay than straight.

4. Discrimination in hiring practices is often described as "lack of fit" of an individual.

5. The most common form of discrimination that created a hostile work environment for those surveyed was antigay jokes, not comments.

6. There was a strong correlation between a person's desire to remain closeted and overt personal discrimination. This doesn't mean that a desire to remain closeted causes discrimination. A person might choose to remain closeted because of discrimination. Or vice versa. But people who were out to some people at work reported feeling less discriminated against than those who were closeted.

I have to admit that I haven't completely finished the book. It is a lot of stories to take in. I'll post more if there are additional points.

Any observations?