Is science too straight? This was the provocative title of an article published by Boston University last year, revealing how the STEM field has a problem when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. Shaun O’Boyle, a science communicator from Ireland, puts it clearly: “While the scientific process treats all data equally, science does not treat all scientists equally.” For LGBT+ people, studying and working in a STEM organisation often means lying about their sexual and gender identity, being afraid of coming out, and missing out on mentorship and support. And research shows LGBT students in STEM are less likely to finish their studies compared to their peers.
Yet it is well documented that more diversity and inclusion in STEM means better science. Science engagement organisations already play a fundamental role to strengthen diversity and inclusion in STEM education and are at the forefront when it comes to developing innovative approaches to gender balance, social inclusion and widening participation. Science engagement organisations get in direct contact with millions of young people and provide professional development opportunities.
This is why Ecsite, together with some of the world’s leading science institutions and societies, supports the first ever International Day of LGBT in STEM on 5 July. The day is an opportunity and an instrument to celebrate all LGBT+ people working and studying in STEM, to give visibility to the community and to be part of a global push to increase diversity and inclusion. Anybody can take part. It’s one day that can change a lifetime.
Andrea Bandelli, Executive Director, Science Gallery International