Political Ideology, Coworker Influence, and Advocacy for LGBT Rights

Next week, we head to Dublin, Ireland, to present research at the annual conference of the European Association for Sport Management. One my presentations with Nicole Melton will focus on understanding what prompts people to advocate for LGBT equality in sport organizations. 

We focused on two variables in particular: political ideology and coworker influence. For the first variable, we drew from the work of John Jost and colleagues They suggest that openness to experience and a rejection of inequality influences subsequent political attitudes. These, in turn, influence how people critique systems, view issues, and express prejudice. Jost and colleagues suggest that progressively minded people are likely to question systems of injustice and have low levels of prejudice. Thus, we suspected that political progressiveness would be positively associated with advocacy for LGBT rights in the work environment.

The relationship between political orientation and advocacy might be affected by organizational factors, such as the support for diversity expressed by coworkers. Various theories suggest (1) people learn acceptable behaviors and attitudes based on, at least in part, those modeled by others around them, and (2) the social context influences what people consider right and appropriate. In drawing from these perspectives, we thought that coworker support for diversity would be likely to influence LGBT advocacy.

To examine these possibilities, we collected data from 309 employees of intercollegiate athletic departments in the United States. The sample included 67 per cent women, 78 per cent White employees, and the average age was 38.9 years. The participants completed a questionnaire measuring their demographic information, political ideology, the support their coworkers showed for diversity, and their advocacy efforts in the workplace. 

Results showed that both variables affected LGBT advocacy efforts. Even after controlling for other factors that might affect advocacy, such as sex, race, and age, we found that political progressives and people who worked with others who valued diversity were more likely to advocate for LGBT equality in the workplace themselves. The initiated reader can see the regression table below. 

These findings suggest that both personal and contextual factors influence people's decision to advocate for diversity issues in the workplace. Given these findings, we suggested that managers could do the following to encourage such advocacy: (1) encourage creativity, expression of different ideas, and continual learning; (2) reward people for supporting diversity initiatives; and (3) create and sustain inclusive workplace structures, policies, and structures. These should, collectively help create a space where people advocate for LGBT rights and ultimately help create more inclusive workplace environments.