bias and negative career consequences. In surveys of gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of the American Sociological Association in 1981 and 1992 (Gagnon et al., 1982; Taylor and Raebrun, 1995), researchers who were open at work about their sexual orientation reported more experiences of bias related to their sexual orientation than those who were not. Such bias included discrimination in hiring, tenure, promotion, and scholarly devaluation; exclusion from social and professional networks; harassment and intimidation.

McNaron (1997) studied gay and lesbian academics with more than 15 years of teaching and research experience. Most reported that although their institutions had antidiscrimination policies in place, they felt that their sexual orientation had an impact on their work experience. Only half of the academics had come out to department chairs and administrators, and about a third were open to their students. Approximately one out of four of the lesbian researchers surveyed by Ryan and Bradford (1997) reported believing that their difficulty in finding or keeping a job or in getting a promotion or obtaining tenure was due to being lesbian. Because no comparison group was included, however, it is not possible to determine how these experiences compare to those of other researchers.

Isolation of Lesbians in Research Settings and Lack of Academic Mentors

The limited number of people conducting research on lesbian issues has implications both for lesbian researchers and for students interesting in pursuing careers conducting research on lesbian issues. Lack of access to colleagues, mentors, and other researchers who are lesbian was cited as a major barrier to personal and professional development for the lesbian researchers surveyed by Ryan and Bradford (1997). Nine out of ten respondents ranked access to lesbian researchers as their top priority, and three-quarters said that mentoring was their primary need.

Students who wish to pursue research careers that focus on lesbian issues face several challenges stemming from the lack of access to mentors who conduct research with lesbians. In a recent study of the experiences that lesbian psychology students have in conducting lesbian research, students reported difficulty finding supportive mentors, research advisers, or

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement