Today is the first International Day of LGBTQ+ People in Science, Technology and Maths (#LGBTSTEMDay), so I’ve put together this blog post to try and do my bit to draw attention to this initiative. In the past I’ve spoken about my passion for supporting women in STEM, but it’s not only women that are underrepresented and struggle to participate, contribute and thrive in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) environments. The LQBTQ+ community continue to struggle to openly be themselves within our society, and that is unfortunately a situation that bleeds into the world of STEM specifically.
Note: I’m using LGBTQ+ here as an all-encompassing term for people identifying as part of lesbian, day, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual communities. Not sure what these mean? Head to Stonewall for a glossary of definitions.
So, why is #LGBTQSTEMDay a thing?
As I said, the LGBTQ+ community are not being supported as they should be in STEM environments. As a straight white cis woman I’m in a pretty privileged situation. The only real battle I might face in terms of discrimination in the workplace is sexism, and while I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of that in any way, the issues encountered and experienced by the LGBTQ+ community are much more complex than that.
- Studies across Europe indicate that ~20% of LGBTQ+-identifying people felt that they experienced discrimination when job hunting due to their sexual orientation.
- Many LGBTQ+ employees are closeted at work due to fear of the consequences of them being openly themselves; more than 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ employees lie about their personal lives at work (presumably in an effort to remain closeted).
- Talented LGBTQ+ employees are known to leave workplaces as a result of unwelcoming environments; 1 in every 10 people identifying as LGBTQ+report this as a reason for leaving a job in the past.
For more evidence see these resources which I found on the LGBT STEM Day website:
- 2013 Queer in STEM survey
- 2014 Factors Impacting The Academic Climate
- 2015 American Physical Society survey
- 2018 Coming out in STEM: Factors affecting retention of sexual minority STEM students
Today is all about raising awareness of the issues encountered by the LGBTQ+ community, and more importantly, a day to encourage support to change the landscape of STEM environments to increase diversity and inclusion.
In the spirit of things, here are a few ideas on how you can mark #LGBTSTEMDay yourself:
- Familiarise yourself with LGBTQ+ scientists of the past with a list of queer scientists of historical note, and then take a look at 10 LGBT leaders that are at the cutting edge of science and technology now.
- This Nature article that argues brilliantly for increased diversity – not only on a moral basis, but because it will help to improve science too.
- Penguin’s Ultimate LGBT Pride Book List – being open to hearing more diverse voices shouldn’t just be limited to ‘voices in STEM environments’ – people are everywhere, and this list of books provides recomendations spanning literary fiction, non-finction, poetry, science fiction and more. Make an effort to encorporate diverse stories and characters into your reading habits and your own perspective and understanding of the people around you will likely improve too.
- Watch the Imitation Game – and check out this article on what the Imitation Game didn’t tell you about Alan Turing.
- Download the LGBTSTEM Day Tookit, and contribute to the #LGBTSTEMDay audio documentary that will be produced from snippets of events and stories from around the world.
- Check #LGBTSTEMDay to follow the events of the day, read stories from the community, share your experiences, and shout about the LGBTQ+ role models that you look up to.
- Whilst you’re on Twitter, diversify your feed by following LGBTQ+ people in STEM, and people and organisations that support increased diversity and inclusion – a few ideas: @PrideinSTEM, @LGBTQSTEM, @houseofstem, @shaunoboyle, @NiamhTalking90, @InterEngLGBT, @OUTinSTEM, @LisaGraumlich, @emilynordmann, and please links to Twitter accounts/resources/articles etc that I’ve missed!