What is your thesis about?
“My research looks at discrimination of gay men and women on the European job market. I tried to obtain deeper insight into the effect of sexual orientation on their chances on the job market. For example, differences in the likelihood of unemployment, the length of time they were unemployed or the length of time they were employed. I compared the situation for gay men and women with similar heterosexual people of the same gender. I also looked at how ‘coming out’ influenced the likelihood of encountering discrimination on the work floor.”
How do you find out whether someone is suffering discrimination based on social orientation?
“I used big datasets of household surveys that have been conducted in EU countries. To find gay couples, I compared the gender of test subjects with that of their cohabiting partner. By comparing their job market results in these datasets with those of their heterosexual counterparts, I could establish whether there was discrimination. You can find the differences in the likelihood of them being hired, their terms of employment or their personal treatment, for example.”
What were your main conclusions?
“There were three. Firstly, both gay men and women experienced discrimination on the work floor, resulting in shorter employment on average than their heterosexual counterparts.
“Secondly, the experiences of gay men and women seem to differ. Gay men are unemployed more often and for longer than heterosexual men. For women, the results are less clear. Lesbian women also experience discrimination when applying for jobs but are less often unemployed than heterosexual women. The length of their unemployment is also shorter. One explanation might be that lesbian women make more effort to get a job than their heterosexual counterparts.
“Thirdly, the attitude on the work floor is important for the experience of gay employees and for reliable statistics about discrimination. If they openly express their sexual orientation in a workplacethat is hostile to homosexuality, they are more likely to experience discrimination. Furthermore, discrimination in hostile workplaces is reported less often. Consequently, the statistics relating to discrimination of gay employees may underestimate the real situation.”
How did you find the PhD process?
“It was an interesting and sometimes difficult process. During my PhD, I was still working full time abroad as a researcher. Working on my thesis from another country was sometimes an added stress factor. Finding the suitable datasets was also challenging; some people even told me that it would be impossible. In the end I got lucky with that. And because it concerned huge datasets and complex models, it could take days to perform certain calculations on my computer. If I then made a mistake or needed to adjust something, again that took me extra time. Fortunately, the supervisors and reviewers usually sent comments that improved my articles. For example, they advised me to consider alternative approaches, explore new connections in the data or suggest an alternative theoretical approach.”
How did you come up with this subject?
“I grew up in a small village in the Czech Republic. As a young gay boy, twenty years ago I was bullied a lot there. That experience was quite confrontational, but I tried to turn it into something good. I started my studies and now I have the chance to contribute to change. I wanted to use the data to show that we still have a problem with homophobia and discrimination in Europe. And because I wanted to do a PhD in social sciences, I soon came up with this subject. It is really a combination of my own experiences and my scientific interest.
“Incidentally, I should say that we’ve come a long way in the Czech Republic. At the time, I wanted to emigrate and never return, but it’s good to go back now and then. Then I notice that things are changing. It’s not the same as twenty years ago. I was then the only openly gay person in my neighbourhood, but now you see more and more young people coming out for who they are.”