Gay Men, Lesbians Differ on LGBT-Friendly Corporate Policies, Advertising

Rainbow-Flag-Shutterstock-AWhile it is convenient to group lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people together under the catch-all “LGBT” acronym, these groups, while allied for political purposes, actually vary a great deal in socioeconomic status, consumption behaviors, cultural orientation, and life goals.

With that in mind, it would make sense for their views of LGBT interests to vary as well, with implications for corporate initiatives that seek to curry favor with this subpopulation -- for example, “LGBT-friendly” marketing efforts.
A new article in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, titled “What Matters: Factors Influencing Gay Consumers’ Evaluations of ‘Gay-Friendly’ Corporate Activities,” examines the views of lesbians and gay men regarding LGBT-friendly advertising and corporate policies.



Author Gillian W. Oakenfull, an associate professor of marketing at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business, surveyed 405 self-identified gay adults, including 208 women and 197 men, and found significant differences in their views of LGBT-friendly policies and advertising.
Much of the difference in opinion, she suggests, stems from differences in socioeconomic status and lifestyle. For example, she notes that according to the 2010 U.S. Census, lesbian households have an average household income of $93,083, compared to $115,556 for gay male households. Also, lesbian households are more likely to have children under the age of 18 (23.9%, versus 10.7% for gay male households), and are also more likely to be partnered.
The upshot of all these differences, Oakenfull found, is that lesbians tend to place greater importance on corporate policies that offer economic benefits to same-sex couples -- including health benefits, dependent life insurance, daycare, tuition assistance, and employee discounts -- than gay men.

Lesbians also placed greater importance on corporate activities that help legitimize LGBT lifestyles in mainstream society -- for example, a company explicitly identifying itself as gay-friendly and supporting gay causes and organizations.
Turning to advertising, Oakenfull found that lesbians placed less importance on companies advertising in LGBT media than did gay men, and more importance on companies advertising in mainstream media. The first result seemed to be due to the fact that LGBT media has tended to skew toward gay men in its portrayals of LGBT consumers, both in editorial and advertising content, meaning that lesbians don’t feel it is representative of their interests or lifestyles.

Oakenfull notes that where 29% of gay males read gay-oriented magazines on a weekly basis, just 15% of lesbians do so. By the same token, lesbians may place greater importance on gay-friendly ads in mainstream media because they feel it helps to legitimize LGBT lifestyles in the broader society.

"Rainbow Flag" photo from Shutterstock.

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