Officer workers

Office workers. Credit: Unsplash

More than two-thirds of Americans support transgender rights in the workplace, a new study finds.

The study, published in Management Science, reveals how comfortable employees are with the idea of having a transgender person as their manager, as well as levels of support for the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County banning employment discrimination against transgender people.

Researchers gave 1,800 people a list of statements and asked them to report how many of the statements – but not which ones – they agreed with.

This technique is designed to identify and eliminate ‘social desirability’ bias, in which respondents either exaggerate or downplay their support due to what they perceive to be socially acceptable.

Making comparisons across the lists the researchers could then estimate the true share of respondents who agreed to the key statements about transgender labour rights.

Over two-thirds of respondents were genuinely comfortable with the idea of having a transgender manager at work, and were supportive of non-discrimination employment legislation protecting transgender people.

However, the researchers’ experiment also found evidence of social desirability bias, with support for transgender inclusion over-reported by 8-10 percent.

Support for transgender minorities in the labour market varied across demographic groups, with women, sexual minorities and Democrat voters showing higher levels of support compared with other groups.

There was also a discrepancy between perceived and actual levels of support for transgender rights, with respondents found to underestimate the overall level of support for transgender employment rights.

Respondents were also more comfortable having a lesbian, gay or bisexual manager than a transgender one, and support for non-discrimination rights for these minority groups was also found to be stronger.

“It is crucial to have a baseline understanding of people’s true attitudes to assess the effectiveness of policies and initiatives aimed at reducing discrimination and promoting inclusion,” said Dr Dario Sansone, a Lecturer in Economics at the University of Exeter Business School.

“Our results are highly relevant for policy, showing large popular support behind the 2020 Supreme Court ruling banning employment discrimination against transgender people.

“Our findings on the mismatch between beliefs and actual views suggest there may be scope to use informational interventions to improve labour market outcomes for transgender individuals.

“As most respondents underestimated the overall level of support for transgender inclusion in the workplace, informing individuals about the actual level of support could potentially shift individuals’ views, in line with other studies on gender norms.

“But if these mismatches between beliefs and actual views are not corrected, such misperceptions could lend legitimacy to anti-transgender policies that most people may not support.”

Understanding Labor Market Discrimination Against Transgender People: Evidence from a Double List Experiment and a Survey is published in Management Science.