LGBTSTEM Day, July 5th 2019
July 5th 2018 marked the first #LGBTSTEMDay, giving the opportunity for individuals and organizations to showcase and celebrate the work and the lives of LGBTQ+ people in STEM. Over 16 thousand tweets were published containing the hashtags (#LGBTSTEM, #LGBTQSTEM, #LGBTQIASTEM) and the event received tens of millions of impressions on social media.
“We were not expecting the amount of interest that the day generated, and we are happy that more and more people and organizations decided to be involved this year,” Dr Alfredo Carpineti, chair of Pride in STEM, said in a statement. “We hope to build on that success this year by highlighting the many LGBTQ+ people in STEM and their different identities, as well as pointing out the many barriers that continue to remain in the fields.”
28% of LGBT+ have at some point considered leaving their workplace because of the climate or discrimination towards LGBT+ people. 20 percent of trans people had often considered leaving (2019 Exploring The Workplace For LGBT+ Physical Scientists), which is an abysmally high number. One in three physicists in America has been urged to stay in the closet to progress in their career. Half of the transgender or gender non-conforming physicists were harassed in their own departments (2015 American Physical Society survey). Gay and bisexual students are less likely to follow an academic career (2018 Coming out in STEM: Factors affecting retention of sexual minority STEM students). To these, we need to add barriers and issues specific to other underrepresented groups, which create a much bigger challenge for people with intersectional identities.
“Going to an undergraduate institution in a small town in southwest Virginia was stifling and isolating. I would not have gone to graduate school had I not been admitted to a school in a city where LGBTQ+ culture is thriving––my goal was to escape,” explained Rob Ulrich chair of Queers in STEM.
There are 9 organizing groups, all of them operating one way or another in the world of LGBT+ STEM: PrideInSTEM, House of STEM, InterEngineering, OUT in STEM, LGBTQSTEM, 500 Queer Scientists, Queer in STEM, Queer in Science, and LGBT+ Physics. Volunteers from these groups dedicate their free time to coordinating the events and helping the supporting organizations on how to best mark this day.
“It’s fantastic to be involved in LGBT+ STEM Day, and especially this year with more international groups. We’ve grown so much as a community in the last five years, but we still have a long way to go,” said Dr Alex Bond, from LGBTQ STEM.
There are currently 50 supporting organizations who have their logo on the website, among which we find large international collaborations from groups such as CERN and the European Space Agency. They will contribute to the conversation on social media, work with their internal LGBTQ+ groups, and involve senior members of their organizations in marking the day. Events will happen on and around the date, some open to the wider public, others internal, depending on what groups can do given the often limited resources at their (and our) disposal.
Sarah Durcan, Global Operations Manager for Science Gallery International said: “Science Gallery is all about breaking down boundaries, and we are delighted to see the growth in support with 50+ oganisations getting involved in LGBTSTEMDay 2019. It’s vital that STEM be inclusive and representative of LBGTQ+ talent.”
A peculiar thing that happened last year was seeing so many groups having charity bake sales or “cake & coffee” mornings to talk about LGBTQ+ issues. For that reason, we roped in two Great British Bake Off Alumni, Yan Tsou &Andrew Smyth, for a special rainbow cake video!
Cake sales last year supported a variety of initiatives such as refugees groups and LGBTQ+ charities. If you are planning to do this again, we hope it goes amazingly well and a lot of money goes to worthy causes.
“This is a grassroots initiative, and we hope to see people mark and celebrate LGBTSTEMDay in different ways that reflect the diversity of our community,” said Dr Shaun O’Boyle, co-chair of House of STEM. “We’re particularly excited about events and discussions that call for action, and that focus on those who are most marginalised.”
The event is obviously not the be all and end all for LGBTQ+ in STEM. It is a small step taken by some people in the community which we hope can benefit all. It’s just another bit in the global push for equality, diversity, inclusion, and belonging in STEM.
We hope that this day becomes more and more community-led, and it is our hope that we can involve more people and more LGBTQ+ organizations every year. The changes we hope to see won’t come easily. We need to constantly work to spread our message and continue to push for improvement for underrepresented groups in STEM.
“Taking part in the international Day means affirming to be a safe and inclusive place to work that values people’s individuality. It creates an opportunity for thousands of people to find their role models, to feel less alone and to be supported and valued as LGBT+. Spread the news within your organisation and join the initiative and its supporters. It’s one day that can change a lifetime.” Andrea Bandelli, Executive Director of Science Gallery International.
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