Having a "gay sounding" voice could lead you to being paid less or even overlooked for promotion.

New research from the UK has found that despite the growing number of gay CEOs, including Qantas' Alan Joyce and Jennifer Westacott of the Business Council of Australia, people have an unconscious bias against men with a non-masculine voice and women that didn't display typically feminine characteristics, according to news.com.au.

Straight men were also found to be more likely to avoid befriending another man if that person's voice suggested they were gay.

"It is revealing, that despite all the work to lessen discrimination against the LGBT community, people subconsciously type cast an individual before getting to know them," said Dr Fabio Fasoli of Britain's University of Surrey who conducted the research.

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While previous research has been conducted into whether people can accurately determine sexuality based on voice alone, the Surrey research looked at the opinions people drew from those voices.

UK researchers presented 81 heterosexual men and women with voice samples and pictures of both gay and straight people, but with no further information.

Their sexualities were not disclosed.

The participants were then asked who would make the best CEO and the salary they considered adequate.

Men and women considered to be gay or lesbian were thought be less adequate for a leadership position.

When it came to the male speakers, researchers discovered that having a "heterosexual voice" rather than a "gay-sounding voice" gave the impression that the speaker had typically masculine traits.

This increased their perceived suitability for the CEO role and the chance of receiving a higher salary.

Lesbian candidates were associated with a lack of femininity and identified as gender nonconforming and received less positive evaluation than heterosexual counterparts.

Dr Fasoli said the study highlighted being perceived as gay could still hinder people's careers.

"These results demonstrate that the mere sound of a voice is sufficient to trigger stereotyping, denying gay- and lesbian- sounding speakers the qualities that are considered typical of their gender."

Openly gay men and women in leadership positions are still relatively rare, but not unheard of.

Apple, one of the largest companies in the world, is led by Tim Cook. In 2015, he told US chat show host Stephen Colbert that he felt a "tremendous responsibility" to come out as gay.

"It became so clear to me that kids were getting bullied in school, kids were getting basically discriminated against, kids were even being disclaimed by their own parents and that I needed to do something," he said.

Qantas' Mr Joyce said since being open about his sexuality he's become a role model for gay people starting out in their careers.

Gay political leaders are even thinner on the ground.

In 2009, Iceland's Johanna Siguroardottir became the world's first openly gay head of state; the second was Elio di Rupo of Belgium in 2011.

Australia has eight out federal MPs while Andrew Barr, First Minister of the Australia Capital territory, is the only gay state or territory leader.

Another study conducted by the Surrey researchers saw participants listen to the voices of two different speakers and then evaluate that person's likely personality traits and interests and who they might consider befriending.

Participants attributed more feminine traits to male speakers with a stereotypically gay voice while lesbian sounding speakers were more likely to be associated with masculine characteristics.

The men in the study were more likely to avoid befriending male gay-sounding speakers.