New initiative aims to boost LGBTQ visibility in STEM fields

By : Layla Ferris
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The first international LGBT STEM Day on July 5 aims to celebrate the accomplishments and highlight the struggles of LGBTQ people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

LGBT STEM Day is a primarily online initiative, with organizations and individuals sharing stories on social media about the experiences of LGBTQ people in STEM, according to a July 2 press release.

Alfredo Carpineti is the chair and founder of Pride in STEM, a British charitable trust that is run by LGBTQ people in STEM. Pride in STEM is one of the main organizers of LGBT STEM Day.

Carpineti said that solving the problems of being LGBTQ in STEM requires inclusive and intersectional changes to how science is performed, discussed and what is expected of it.

Various surveys and studies reaffirm the difficulties that come with being LGBTQ in STEM.

More than 40 percent of LGBTQ people in STEM are not out, according to a 2013 Queer in STEM survey. A 2015 survey from the American Physical Society shows half of transgender or gender non-conforming physicists were harassed in academia.

The barriers don’t only affect professionals who already have established careers.

Students who are gay or bisexual are less likely to follow through with an academic career in STEM, according to a 2018 Coming out in STEM study.

“LGBT STEM Day won’t fix all the issues, but it will shine a big light on them,” Carpineti said. “We are sure it will start conversations, and that’s so important. Ignorance kills.”

A total of 42 international groups support the LGBT STEM Day initiative. Other organizers include House of STEM, a network of LGBTQ people working in STEM in Ireland; InterEngineering, an organization that centers on LGBTQ inclusion in engineering; and Out in STEM, a London-based society that aims to educate and encourage leadership for LGBTQ people in STEM fields.

“LGBT STEM Day is an exciting opportunity to bring that family together, in a truly global push towards improving the visibility and representation of LGBTQ+ people in STEM,” Founder of House of STEM Shaun O’Boyle said.

There are 30 events happening internationally to celebrate the day.

“We selected July 5 to celebrate this date in 2018 as it can be written as ‘507’ which is (in [nanometers]) the wavelength of the [color] green featured in the rainbow flag and is representative of nature,” the LGBT STEM Day website states. “If you’re in the US, then it’s ‘705’ which is the wavelength of the color red, representing life.”

You can join the initiative on social media July 5 by using the hashtag: #LGBTSTEMDay.

Image courtesy of PrideInStem.org.

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