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An exploration into the career experiences of lesbians in the UK

Sandra L. Fielden (Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Hannah Jepson (Future Leaders Charitable Trust Limited, London, UK)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 6 June 2016




The purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of lesbians in terms of career progression and development, focusing on several areas including, discrimination in the workplace, career resources, barriers to career development and the importance of disclosing one’s sexual identity in the workplace.


Interviews were conducted with 15 participants, 14 of whom had disclosed their sexuality at work. A grounded theory approach was used to conduct the analysis, and the findings suggested six core categories relating to the career experiences of the sample. These categories are: social climate; career choice; work environment; personality; being a lesbian and being a woman; and useful strategies.


The analysis highlighted several key findings, such as the importance of the relationship between gender and sexuality; the importance of working within a policy-driven environment such as the public sector; the importance of personality and the modification of behaviour as a personal resource for lesbians in the workplace. The research also highlighted the fact that discrimination still occurs at work but manifests itself in different and often more subtle ways and it was reported that, despite protective legislation, one of the greatest challenges for lesbians is working within a heterosexist and heteronormative environment.


There is a great deal of research dedicated to women’s career development but less on certain subgroups of women and even less on the career development of lesbians in organisations, and it is the aim of this paper to address the lack of research pertaining to the careers of lesbians in the UK.



Fielden, S.L. and Jepson, H. (2016), "An exploration into the career experiences of lesbians in the UK", Gender in Management, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 281-296.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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