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Lies, damned lies, rich lesbians, poor gays and statistics

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 4 August 2021

Lesbians earn 7% more than straight women, gay men less than straight men – some academics don’t understand data, just in this case damned lies and statistics. This is all nonsense.

This shock finding is from a study by economist Nick Drydakis of the Anglia Ruskin University, formerly a school of art which became a University in 1992. Nick is an express passenger on the institutionalised discrimination gravy train and does not understand logic or data, which is handy when arriving at his, inevitable, conclusion.

The hard data is that in the UK, lesbians earn 7.1% more than straight women, gay and bisexual men earn 4.7% less than straight men and bisexual women earn 5.1% less than straight women. Natch this is all down to discrimination even though those lucky lesbians are clearly rolling in it. Nick states:

The persistence of earnings penalties for gay men and bisexual men and women in the face of anti-discrimination policies represents a cause for concern…Legislation and workplace guidelines should guarantee that people receive the same pay and not experience any form of workplace bias simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity status.

Inclusive policies should embrace diversity by encouraging under-represented groups to apply for jobs or promotions and providing support to LGBTIQ+ employees to raise concerns and receive fair treatment. Standing against discrimination and celebrating and supporting LGBTIQ+ diversity should form a part of HR policies.”

I think Drydakis is using mean averages rather than mode. That is a mistake as it means a few outliers can distort matters. Thus the obscene earnings of Sue Perkins and Sandy Toksvig who, between them, now host about 35% of TV quiz shows might distort the picture. I am of course joking but at the margin this blurs the numbers and is academic sloppiness.

There are real reasons for these discrepancies and it is nothing to do with discrimination. Lesbians outperform straight women as they have fewer career breaks for having children. Now I know that some lesbians do have kids but for reasons I could explain to Nick, if he does not understand them, straight women are more likely to have child-based career breaks. So you would expect lesbians to earn more and also men to earn more for the same reason. It is simple logic.

My wife will underperform lesbian peers and also childless straight peers not because she is less smart but because she has had two periods of maternity leave and at weekends she and I enjoy looking after the kids and going on adventures with them. That means she has less time to work on research papers so, in academia, that means fewer promotions. That is just the way the world goes.

As for gay and bi men earning less, well this should also be expected and it is to do with demographics. It tends to be that in most careers you reach peak earning power in your 50s. There are far more young gay and bi men in the workplace than gay and bi men my age. Why? There are two main reasons.

Firstly, gay men in their 50s started having sex in the late 1970s and 1980s and that was the era when AIDS in the UK was overwhelmingly a gay disease and was also a death sentence. So, very sadly, a disproportionate number of men who had sex with men who are my age and a bit older are just not around now. Secondly, it was a lot harder to “come out” back in the era of AIDS and Clause 28 and some gays of my age have still not got around to it and maybe only will when their own parents from a less tolerant era go to a better place. So there are a disproportionate number of younger (so less high earning) gay and bi men and that is what appears to show that gays earn less than straight men. If you split out by age group, these sexuality pay gaps disappear. Gay men and straight men of the same age doing the same jobs get the same pay.

Why do bisexual women underperform? Again it is age. Gender fluidity is very much something young people accept. In my day there were very few open lesbians but bisexual women were just like the lesser spotted orchid, very hard to find. Among young folks today, far more women say they are bi. So again it is the fact that bisexual women will be found predominantly among younger, so lower earning, demographics that explains this data.

But Nick cannot see any of these rational explanations for pay gaps – he is one of the Witchfinder Generals of the discrimination industry so he just smells discrimination and demands more legislation and affirmative action to tackle a problem that, happily, does not exist.

Of course nobody will challenge Drydakis and his crackpot study even if your challenge is, as mine is, based on hard data and logic. For he will just say that such a challenge is further proof of discrimination against the LGBTQ community and why more legislation and affirmative action is needed. It is not. The great news for someone like me who marched against Clause 28 is that there really is not a not a sexuality based pay gap problem anymore.  

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
[email protected]
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