‘Straight-acting’ and ‘masculine’ men preferred over ‘feminine’ men for leadership roles, study finds

Protestors hold up LGBTQ+ flags during a protest.

A study has found that traditionally “masculine” men are more likely to be chosen for leadership roles over traditionally “feminine” men.

A study published on 27 December 2022 found that masculine-presenting gay men are often chosen for more “high-status” roles regardless of their competency or fit for the job.

Researchers comprised a sample size of 256 LGBTQ+ and heterosexual men who were asked to select a candidate for an international Sydney tourism advert.

Of the sample, around 59 per cent of the men preferred those who presented as more traditionally masculine, rather than their effeminate counterparts.

The study defined femininity as a more traditionally “feminine vocal quality, body language and posture.”

It also found that the rate of preference was no different between LGBTQ+ men and heterosexual men, though the decision-making differed between the two groups.

You may like to watch

Researchers concluded that the results were due to underlying sexist rhetoric, as well as anti-LGBTQ+ stereotyping from heterosexual participants.

“These findings inform the need for advocacy and training to counter apparent bias against feminine-presenting men in a range of contexts and populations,” the study’s conclusion read.

Ben Gerrard, a researcher at the School of Psychology in Sydney, told Star Observer that internal bias against feminine-presenting men could be resulting in further LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace.

“Gay men are potentially blocking each other from positions of power and leadership due to this implicit bias,” he said.

“Men are still expected to conform to more traditional masculine styles of leadership, and if they fail to sufficiently project masculine traits they are at risk of status penalties,” this is an example of internalised homophobia among the gay community and it impacts opportunities for these gay men.”

He further explained that it is actually “a misnomer” to subconsciously believe masculine traits are inherently better for leadership, saying that qualities traditionally seen as feminine are much more suited for leading a team.

“Those more feminine qualities that gay men do possess actually earmark them,” he said. “potentially as ideal leadership candidates.”