Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Coming Out on Your Resume? Great Idea, Especially if You’re Black


US president Barack Obama recently said he would sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. While the order may not have much effect on the contractors themselves—24 of the 25 largest contractors already have nondiscrimination policies, and have since at least 2012—pro-LGBT activists, such as the discrimination watchdog group GetEQUAL, welcomed the move.

New data, however, suggest that the hurdles facing LGBT workers have been shrinking. In fact, mentioning sexual orientation on a resume may actually give some LGBT applicants an advantage over their heterosexual counterparts—especially if they also happen to be African-American.

In 2005, the Harvard sociologist András Tilcsik conducted a survey (published in 2011) analyzing discrimination in average “callback rates”—how many resumes an entry-level candidate must send before getting a call back from a potential employer—for gay and straight male applicants. When the fictional “resumes” contained a reference to membership in a gay university student organization, the callback rate dropped by 40%. Tilcsik’s survey of 1,769 potential employers found discrimination was worst in some states, such as Florida and Texas, where the gay callback rate was less than one-third that of the non-gay applicants.

But in 2012, Carnegie Mellon University researchers Alessandro Acquisti and Christina Fong found a very different result: their study of 1,000 potential employers, published in 2013, found virtually identical callback rates for fictional gay and heterosexual male applicants.


And when the LGBT applicants are black men—a group that has experienced a well-documented disadvantage (paywall) on the jobs market—the results can be even more striking. New research by the Princeton University sociologist David Pedulla, published in March in Social Psychology Quarterly (paywall), suggests that for black male applicants, coming out may actually result in a higher starting salary.

In September 2011, Pedulla conducted a national survey of 400 potential employers, using entry-level resumes for fictional men which were identical—down to which branch of Target all the applicants worked for—except for “black-sounding names” and gay student organization membership. What he found was that stereotypes of black men being “more aggressive”—which negatively impacted applicants’ chances—were effectively cancelled out by “the feminine stereotype” of gay men. (Pedulla gauged “threatening factor” based on respondents’ agreement to survey questions such as “this applicant is likely to break workplace rules” and “this applicant is likely to steal from the workplace.”) Black gay men were seen as “more warm,” and therefore less threatening, resulting in a higher suggested starting salary than that of even white heterosexual men.


Pedulla tells Quartz that his research “sheds light on some of the implicit and explicit biases” that hiring managers may have about black men, and pointed out that the only variables in his study were race and sexual orientation.

While this study was based on theoretical jobs and conducted under survey conditions, Pedulla told Princeton that in the future, he “would be interested in conducting an experimental audit study of real job openings in the labor market where the race and sexual orientation of the job applicants were experimentally manipulated.” He is also interested in examining whether or not similar patterns emerged “across different markets, such as credit or housing markets,” Pedulla told Quartz.

Unfortunately, the benefits of being out don’t necessarily persist once applicants are in their workplaces. Pew Research’s 2013 survey of LGBT Americans found that one in five LGBT workers still report having experienced discrimination in the workplace, and 26% of transgender workers reported having been fired for being transgender (pdf). And while entry-level applicants are seeing progress, many executives still report being afraid to come out at work.

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here. 

(Image via Andrey_Popov/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.