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Five ways to support LGBTQ+ people in science

Over the last hundred years, attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people in Britain have come a long way in both society and science, but not without struggle.

Although the tide has slowly started to turn, thanks to grass-roots campaigns such as Pride in STEM, many types of discrimination, often subtle and gradual, remain. 

In research, underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ casts a shadow over our future.

Scientists from sexual and gender minorities remain at a disadvantage, at a cost to both society and science. The situation raises significant concerns over equality of access and opportunity, and damages innovation within scientific fields.

Earlier this year, researchers found that science professionals who are lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer are more likely to experience career limitations, harassment, and professional devaluation than their peers. 

With that in mind, it’s disheartening – but not surprising – that estimates suggest that LGBTQ+ people are around 20% less represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics than expected, and they are dropping out of degrees at a higher rate than women overall.

As part of the UK’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) History Month, we’re promoting ways to support a more inclusive research environment.

Diversify your social feed

Build yourself an online community that represents a range of diverse perspectives. 

By diversifying your social media feed, you can help to elevate voices who are often unheard and support a more representative space online. Simple gestures such as following and resharing content will boost the reach of a researcher’s profile. At the same time, you’re likely to uncover different experiences that can challenge or inform your own.

Your activity on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn can play a small part in fostering an inclusive research environment.

Listen to LGBTQ+ perspectives

Actively seek out LGTBQ+ voices to help understand new concepts, perspectives and ideas. This might involve following LGBTQ+ topics in the news, keeping up to date on the current issues for the LGBTQ+ community, and finding out how these issues relate to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths sector. 

As you read, you may come across words you are unfamiliar with – the Stonewall glossary of terms is a great place to start. 

Here’s a short, non-exhaustive, list of articles and podcasts that talk about making laboratories, conferences, lecture halls and meetings safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ scientists. 

Share your gender pronouns

Brush up on, and embrace, gender pronouns. We’re encouraging our staff to introduce themselves using gender pronouns in places such as email footers, Zoom, and online profiles.

A pronoun can be gender-specific – he, she, hers, his; or gender-neutral – them, they, theirs. The use of gender neutral pronouns is becoming more widespread, and there may be others that individuals use such as zie, hir and xe. Some people will only use their name as a pronoun. 

We recognise that it’s not always possible to know what someone’s pronouns are by their outward appearance or gender presentation, and that we can show respect for their gender identity by correctly using their personal pronoun. The intention behind inviting our staff to add their gender pronouns to their profile pages, Zoom names, and email footers for example, is to ensure that gender pronouns are used correctly across our organisation. 

Recognise role models

Positive role models play an important part in nurturing diversity. They can provide inspiration, guidance and reassurance for people from minority backgrounds, despite the barriers they might face.

Recognise and champion diverse role models where you can. It’s as simple as making sure your colleagues are visible and given platforms to share their stories.

It’s difficult to believe you can succeed, until you see people like yourself in the positions you’re aspiring for.

500 Queer Scientists is a visibility campaign for LGBTQ+ people and their allies working in STEM and STEM-supporting jobs. So far, the campaign has 1,388 stories and counting.

Take part

Don’t hesitate to get involved with community events taking place. There’s a host of exciting, entertaining and engaging activities being led by the LGBTQ+ community, and this year, it’s all online. See if you find an event that inspires you.

STEM, LGTBQ and You Conference 2021 – Friday 19th February 2021 09:00 – 17:00

Pride in STEM LGBTQ+ History Month Virtual Event – Monday 22nd February 2021 19:30 – 20:30

Alumni Angles: A conversation with BBC newsreader, Jane Hill – Thursday 25th February 2021 18:00 – 19:30

You can find more events listed on the LGBTQ+ History Month calendar

Your ideas and stories

If you would like to be a LGBTQ+ role model for staff and students across the National for Centre for Atmospheric Science, or have colleagues you would like to recognise, please let us know by contacting edi@ncas.ac.uk. We would welcome any other ideas about supporting a more inclusive research environment via email too.