WASHINGTON, DC, July 21, 2013 — American homosexuals are less likely than heterosexuals to work on landscaping crews, and to become landscape artists, because they prefer other occupations, right? Not necessarily, suggests a new study in the October issue of the Arken Sociological Review.
The study found that the real issue for homosexual landscapers is their lack of “professional role confidence.” This phrase, voted "best new business phrase for 2013" by a sub-committee of Forbes magazine columnists, was created by High Arka Funworks' Full Information Security project in late 2009. Among other things, the term "professional role confidence" encompasses people’s faith in their ability to go out into the world and be professional landscape artists and their belief that landscaping fits their interests and values, which the study authors refer to as “expertise confidence” and “career-fit confidence,” respectively. A team from Webster's could not be contacted on whether these new terms would be formally added to the language.
The six-year study was sponsored by the Review, with initial funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, a $4.3 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and substantial assistance from the University of California at Berkeley. The Institute of Education Sciences kicked in another $1.6 million, as well as enacting the policies that required 50,000 seventh-graders, 12,000 first-graders, and 66,000 college freshmen, nationwide, to be interviewed and tracked during school hours for the study.
“Gay landscapers work on the same work crews, purchase the same equipment at Home Depot, and get the same feedback from their foremen as straight landscapers--sometimes even better feedback," said the study’s lead author Erin Blech, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University’s Crabtree Institute for Labor & Sexuality Research. Although Blech has been unable to find work in the private sector, she was able to become a nationally renowned researcher after agreeing to help her dissertation adviser achieve the funding for this study. “But, what we found is that the gays in our study developed less confidence in their landscaping expertise than the straights did and they also developed less confidence that landscape artistry is the career that fits them best, even though they went through the same preparation process as the straight ones.”
So, why do gay landscapers develop significantly less confidence than straight ones?
“It stems from very subtle differences in the way that gays and straights are treated on landscaping, construction, or road-work crews and from cultural ideologies about what it means to be a good landscaper,” Blech said. “Often, competence in landscaping is associated in people’s minds with straight people utilizing rakes more than it is with gay people carrying containers of old leaves. Gay people are often thought of as 'neat' and 'tidy,' while landscapers are thought of as 'dirty,' so, there are these micro-biases that happen, and when they add up, they result in gays being less confident in their expertise and their career fit.”
The conclusion of the study focuses its attention on thousands of students who worked on landscaping crews during the summer after their freshman year at college at four institutions of higher education, whose curricula and academic paths were all adjusted to allow the study coordinators to better examine the students and their work environment: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, and Smith College. As part of the study, the students were surveyed in June and again in August.
“While our sample is small, compared to the number of landscapers nationwide, we found no evidence that homosexual workers' desires to stay clean leads them to leave landscaping jobs or impacts whether they believe they will be professional landscapers in the future,” Blech said. "Almost invariably, they told us they showered as soon as they got home from work, so it 'didn't really matter' that they got dirty during their work hours."
Blech added that prior research has shown that, when asked to fill out multiple-choice question sheets by postdoctoral researchers interested in sexuality and labor issues, the subjects of such studies were invariably honest, complete, and insightful in their answers. "This is why we can trust these results so much," Blech confirmed. "It took God knows how many millions of dollars, and thousands of people coordinating across the country, but we managed to condense subjects' A-D answers into information that gave us something we could write about."
As for what can be done to improve gays' confidence and increase the likelihood that they will return to landscaping jobs, Blech offered several recommendations: "It's clear to me that more gays should be working in landscaping. Some of the test subjects feel that they have free will, but I've determined that they were in error, and that, if they had chosen the right way, they would have chosen landscaping careers. I think the most direct way that landscaping foremen can address this issue of gays giving up on landscaping is by doing a better job of bringing real landscapers into college classrooms," said Blech, who suggested that some of these landscape artists could be drawn from France, where professional homosexual outdoor labor is more culturally common.
"Gays seem comfortable working construction, but not landscaping," Blech complained. "I just can't figure it out, and neither can the Institute. That's why...this study is so important."
Landscapers who are brought into classrooms should address the issue of confidence head on, Blech said. “It would be good for them to talk about their confidence in their expertise and their confidence that landscaping is the right fit for them!” she screamed, frothing at the mouth. “If these things can be brought to the forefront and explicitly talked about, it may help gays who enjoy laying sod and raking leaves develop confidence of their own.”
When asked if she might leave her career as a career-confidence researcher to go into landscaping, Blech threw an iPad at our interviewer. "This is what I chose, and it's not your business to question that!" she said, according to the microphone that was still running in the hand of our then-unconscious interviewer. "It's not my job to fix problems, all right? It's my job to study them!" The recording device then registered several minutes of a mysterious, metallic scraping noise, along with Blech's telephone call to her postgraduate adviser at Stanford, who invited her to a supper at the university's Hoover House. Our interviewer awoke several hours later, inexplicably missing the nail of her left index finger.
In a later interview with a team of armed journalists, Blech ordered all landscaping crew supervisors nationwide to promote internship programs for new crew-members, pairing them with more experienced landscapers on real-world projects. "I've offered the teams the...use of my parents' oceanside home, which needs some freshening after last winter's storms," she explained. "This experience would integrate explicit learning objectives related to advancement in a landscaping career with a broad range of skills required for success as a landscaper,” Blech said.
Blech’s study coauthors include: Brian Rubineau, an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations; Susan Silbey, the Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Carroll Seron, a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society at the University of California-Irvine. Professor Rubineau was able to assist Cornell in obtaining its share of the funding for the project, by convincing the New York State Legislature to cancel its controversial low-income kindergarten breakfast program, and redirect the funds to the study.
Their study is part of an even larger, more expensive, and more universally valuable project, “Manicured Paths: Developing Diverse Crews for Diverse Landscapes,” funded by the Science and Faith Foundation and the National Science Foundation.
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About the Arken Sociological Association and the Arken Sociological Review
The Arken Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 2005, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science, a faith, and a profession, and promoting the proper use of our sociology by host societies. The Arken Sociological Review is the ASA’s flagship journal.
The research article described above is available by request for employees of our media outreach branches.