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Homo boss fine for most Canadians: Study

But what do the survey results really mean?

Results from a new survey suggest that a 25-year-old Quebec man with a university degree is more likely to be accepting of homosexuality than, say, a 65 year-old man with minimal education in Alberta.

Surprised yet?

Quebec-based Fondation Émergence and Gai Écoute sponsored a Leger Marketing survey that asked 1,525 people across the country a series of questions about homosexuality in the workplace.

Results showed that 61 percent of Canadians say it is difficult for a person to openly admit his or her homosexuality in the workplace. Thirty-one percent consider it easy.

“But is it because they have observed in the workplace that open gays and lesbians had problems or are they just conscious that it is not as normalized as heterosexuality is?” wonders Line Chamberland, associate professor at the Institut de Recherches et d’Etudes Féministes (IREF) and lecturer at the University Of Quebec At Montreal who has just gathered information from a three-year research project on homosexuality in the workplace. “So, it’s hard to interpret.”

Laurent McCutcheon, president of Fondation Émergence, suggests that this number is the key result from the survey, but he too understands the subjectivity of this question.

“It’s not the reality of the situation in the workplace, but it’s the perception of all Canadians.”

A more positive and useful number for McCutcheon is that 75 percent said that a homosexual boss has as much credibility among employees as a heterosexual boss.

“I like this one,” McCutcheon says, “because this question is concerned directly with the person who answered the question, and 75 percent said having a gay boss is okay.”

But here, too, Chamberland suggests the results may be misleading. Because there was a 75 percent affirmative response — considerably more than any other questions — there is an incongruity with the other statistics. Why would that be?

“I think there is a bit of conformity here, because the question asks, ‘Do you think?’ so they then ask themselves what is the correct way to think now,” Chamberland says. “But still it’s a good point and it means there is a perception that it’s not because you are a homosexual you can’t do a good job.”

Much more interesting to Chamberland was how answers broke down along age, education and geographic lines. For the question about the credibility of a homosexual boss, 82 percent of Quebeckers, 83 percent of those aged 25 to 34 and 81 percent of people with a university education agreed with the affirmation that “a homosexual boss has as much credibility among employees as a heterosexual boss.”

On the other hand, 21 percent of manual labourers and 32 percent of people with an elementary-level education disagreed with the affirmation. Not a huge discrepancy, but enough to be noted by Leger.

Another hard-to-figure statistic from the survey involved the acceptance of business clients about one’s homosexuality, says Chamberland. In all, 39 percent of respondents said that “openly homosexual people are easily accepted by clients with whom they do business.” But selling airline tickets or shirts at the Gap is different than, say, giving a sponge bath to a physically disabled person at a longterm care facility.

“Where there is proximity involved in services and care, its very different and gays are less open,” says Chamberland.

Some other numbers from the study include: 60 percent surveyed agreed that coming out at work could be harmful to their career and 28 percent say they have witnessed hostile behaviour toward a gay or lesbian person in the workplace.