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Minority support: Friendship and the development of gay and lesbian managerial careers and identities

Nick Rumens (Faculty of Economics, Finance and Management, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 16 August 2011




This paper aims to explore how gay men and lesbians draw upon workplace friendship for developing and sustaining managerial careers and identities.


The study adopts a qualitative design, using data collected from semi‐structured interviews with four lesbians and eight gay men, all employed in managerial roles in the UK.


Data reveal the importance of workplace friendship as a resource for mentoring, climbing managerial career ladders, fitting into existing work cultures and developing gay and lesbian managerial identities. A significant finding is that participants preferred to befriend heterosexual colleagues, to that end complicating previous research that suggests gay and lesbian friendship preferences tend to be marked by similarity in regard to sexual identity. Work friends enable and constrain the development and visibility of gay and lesbian managerial identities and careers.

Research limitations/implications

Although the data are not generalisable, it is of concern that gay men and lesbians continue to be disadvantaged by heteronormative constructions of gender and sexuality. While gender and sexual norms can limit the visibility and embodiment of gay and lesbian managers in the workplace, the study reveals also how gay sexualities can be utilised as a resource for developing influential friendships.


This article provides insights into issues not previously covered or understudied in the organisation studies literature such as the agency of gay men and lesbians in constructing different types of workplace friendships as a resource for developing managerial identities and careers.



Rumens, N. (2011), "Minority support: Friendship and the development of gay and lesbian managerial careers and identities", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 30 No. 6, pp. 444-462.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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