LGBT+ STEM day – Why show our colours on 5th July
What does sexuality/gender identity have to do with science?
Absolutely nothing. As far as we know sexuality and gender identity have nothing to do with your ability as a scientist. This means that people who identify as trans, bi, or anything else have just as much potential as everyone else to become a great scientist. Yet, studies show that LGBT+ people feel less comfortable in science and are more likely to leave research than their cis heterosexual colleagues (see also: 2013 Queer in STEM survey, 2014 Factors Impacting The Academic Climate, 2015 American Physical Society survey). Ultimately, this means that some great scientists are moving to other careers, where they feel more accepted. This is a loss for science.
Why is LGBT+ STEM day necessary?
Equality issues differ based on their visibility and in this case, sexuality and gender identity are often low visibility. In some respects, this can make things easier as it’s harder to judge LGBT+ people based solely on first impressions. But it also makes it possible to hide this part of your identity, and many LGBT+ researchers report having been encouraged to hide their sexuality or gender identity to help them succeed in science. Raising visibility shows everyone that LGBT people succeed in science, helping to dispel stereotypes, discourage discrimination and raise the hopes and aspirations of up-and-coming LGBT+ researchers.
Edit: Here are some recent articles that further highlight the need to support LGBT individuals in STEM:
A 2018 Nature News item on LGBT people leaving STEM careers
A Nature Comment in the run up to LGBTSTEMday highlighting the lack of support at many institutions
An article in the Indy100 highlighting anti-LGBT views still held by some STEM leaders
How does LGBT+ STEM day help?
By visibly showing support for our LGBT+ colleagues and setting an example around the world. I don’t know what it feels like to be an LGBT+ researcher at the Babraham Institute and whether it is easy to feel accepted here irrespective of sexuality and gender identity. I hope that everyone feels welcomed as a part of our friendly research community. But even if this is the case, we’re in a privileged position and it’s important that we champion the cause of LGBT+ people in STEM on the global stage. If a world-leading Institute like ours recognises inclusivity as a valued part of its success then we can provide a clear role model for others to follow.
Who is involved in LGBT+ STEM day?
LGBT+ STEM day is being organised by a combination of LGBT+ community groups with support from key research organisations. The organisers are Pride in STEM, House of STEM, oSTEM and InterEngineering.
What are we doing?
On 5th July, we’re asking everyone to show their true colours by dressing in bright clothes to bring a feeling of diversity and celebration to the Institute. You’ll also be able to show support by picking up rainbow lanyards or badges on the day and by contributing to the LGBT charity Stonewall.
The equality4success team will be at the Campus coffee morning to talk about equality at the Institute. Thanks to support from BBT and our caterers Baxter Storey, we’ll also have rainbow treats available at the coffee morning and there will be a special lunch menu for the day.
Finally, we’ll be helping to inspire the next generation and spreading the message of LGBT+ STEM day by flying the rainbow flag at our Race Against the Ageing Clock exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London.
LGBT STEMinar is a short annual conference organised by LGBT STEM. The meeting brings together LGBT+ people from across all areas of STEM. It is a positive and supportive event that demonstrates the diverse fields LGBT+ people work in and provides inspiration for people in the early stages of their career.
In addition, a visibility project called 500 Queer Scientists recently launched and has already collected over 500 first-hand accounts of being LGBT+ working in STEM.
If you have ideas for other ways the Institute can support equality, would like to get involved in the LGBT+ STEM day plans or in any other events, please contact the equality4success chair, Cheryl Smythe, or another member of the equality team.