21 June, 2016

A word (or many) about the survey

Since we've opened the new Queer in STEM survey yesterday, we've been overwhelmed by the initial response. Thousands of people have visited the study website, and hundreds of folks have answered the survey already. We've also had folks raise concerns with a number of specific questions on the survey — either their wording, or the nature of their enquiry, or their suitability for different identities, populations, and career paths. We appreciate this feedback, and will do everything we can to take concerns into consideration and make decisions that allow us to accommodate unforeseen issues but also ensure validity of the survey data. We also want to provide the following more general statement:

First, we acknowledge that a survey is a blunt instrument to examine issues as complex as genders and sexualities. This is why the Queer in STEM project overall employs a mixed methods design, with the survey as stage one of data collection, followed by an open-response questionnaire and individual interviews. These modes allow for participants to provide more detailed explanations of their experiences and identities. We also know that responding to questions that ask about personal identities can cause discomfort, and we apologize for any distress that was caused by our survey.

20 June, 2016

Take the Queer in STEM 2.0 survey!

As we announced last week, we're launching Queer in STEM 2.0 today! Instructions for taking the survey, and how to help spread the word to other people who should take it, are under the "Take the Survey" tab in the navigation bar above, or just click here. Thanks in advance!

15 June, 2016

Introducing Queer in STEM 2.0

Three years ago, we launched Queer in STEM to take the first in-depth look at the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer-identified (LGBTQ) professionals working in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields. Today we are excited to announce a new chapter of the project: Queer in STEM 2.0.

The original Queer in STEM study

More than 1,400 people from across the U.S., Canada, and around the world answered the original Queer in STEM online survey, and 120 volunteered to answer in-depth follow-up questions. The results of that original online survey have now been reported in many seminar presentations, a peer-reviewed research article [PDF], and an upcoming book chapter, and have received substantial news coverage. We found that

  • LGBTQ-identified people work in STEM fields from evolutionary biology to particle physics;
  • More than 40% have not disclosed their LGBTQ identity to colleagues, coworkers, or students, even if they are totally “out of the closet” at home;
  • LGBTQ-identified people are more likely to be open about their identities if they know their colleagues and employers support them, and if they work in STEM fields with more even representation of men and women.

Queer in STEM 2.0: New questions, new approach, new discoveries

As in all scientific projects, these discoveries lead to more questions. Do LGBTQ-identified people remain in the closet in STEM workplaces mainly because they feel a lack of support, or because STEM workplace cultures discourage discussion of personal lives outside the lab? How do LGBTQ-identified colleagues, mentors, and role models affect their careers? Does being “out” in the workplace affect their research productivity?

Queer in STEM 2.0 aims to answer these questions with a new online survey designed for more specific hypothesis testing. We hope to hear again from participants in the original Queer in STEM survey, and to achieve an even bigger sample from LGBTQ-identified STEM professionals across the U.S. and Canada. Finally, in our biggest innovation from the original study, we will also ask STEM professionals who don’t identify as LGBTQ to answer many of the same questions we will ask LGBTQ-identified participants, to provide a powerful new tool for understanding the survey results: a control sample.

Queer in STEM 2.0 officially launches on Monday, June 20, 2016. We will be asking LGBTQ-identified scientists, technicians, professors, lecturers, graduate students, engineers, and other professionals — as well as their “straight” colleagues — to answer the anonymous online survey, to help spread the word to everyone who should participate, and to volunteer for in-depth follow up questions if they are comfortable. Thanks in advance for your help! We’re looking forward to some exciting new discoveries about the LGBTQ community and scientific careers.

14 August, 2015

Queer in STEM in Nature News

Marla Broadfoot has a very nice article in Nature News about the results reported in our newly published paper.

The results indicated that the majority of the respondents (57%) were out to half or more of their colleagues, a greater proportion than the 47% of people who said they were out in a 2014 survey of the general US workforce by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in Washington DC.

Broadfoot includes quotes from Jeremy and from Kristen Renn, who has done important research on the experiences of minority students in higher education. Go read the whole thing.

05 August, 2015

First peer-reviewed paper reporting Queer in STEM survey results

We're delighted to announce that the first formal academic paper reporting results from the Queer in STEM survey has been published online ahead of print in the Journal of Homosexuality. The points covered in the paper will look familiar to those of you who followed our posting about preliminary analysis:

A survey of individuals working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, or asexual (LGTBQA) was administered online in 2013. Participants completed a 58-item questionnaire to report their professional areas of expertise, levels of education, geographic location, and gender and sexual identities, and rated their work and social communities as welcoming or hostile to queer identities. An analysis of 1,427 responses to this survey provided the first broad portrait of this population, and revealed trends related to workplace practices that can inform efforts to improve queer inclusivity in STEM workplaces.

However, the paper has the benefit of review and comments by experts with knowledge of the broader research context for the results, and includes one big points we haven't made in other print venues. In particular, following an analysis prompted by the reviewers, we found that survey participants who worked in STEM fields with better representation of women were more likely to be out to their colleagues.

Regression with all STEM fields (solid line), p = 0.31;
with Psychology excluded (dashed line), p = 0.02.

This is an interesting result because it suggests a broader phenomenon of gendered culture in STEM workplaces — in fields with fewer women, the climate may be less comfortable for anyone who fails to conform to a straight male gender presentation. This is an issue we're interested in pursuing in further analysis of the survey results, particularly the individual interviews with participants.

The paper is available on the journal website, and in an easier-to-read manuscript format PDF via Jeremy's online publications list.

26 November, 2014

Queer in STEM in New Scientist

The November 8 edition of New Scientist has an in-depth article about queer experiences in scientific workplaces, featuring interviews with Jeremy and with oSTEM President Eric Patridge, the lead author of the study based on Campus Pride survey data.

A lack of visibility of different sexualities in the work environment could discourage others from coming out. And with fewer obvious role models for LGBTQ people, it could harm their chances of finding a mentor – an extremely useful career development tool for any aspiring scientist. "LGBT communities are lacking role models," says Patridge. LGBTQ students may feel more comfortable seeking out mentors similar to them. "The need to find someone of your own identity is something that we see in a lot of minority groups," says Yoder.

16 September, 2014

Nature News on queer experiences in science

We're delighted to see that Nature News has included an in-depth piece on queer folks' experiences in scientific workplaces as part of a special feature on diversity in science. Reporter M Mitchell Waldrop even provides good discussion of the diversity of identities within the queer community, including issues specific to trans* folks, and the intersection of sexual, racial, and ethnic identities—all issues that we've tried to grapple with in the Queer in STEM survey.

“Every time I’d start a course I would have to have a very personal discussion with the professor about things like male pronouns,” says Lucas Cheadle, a neuroscience postdoc at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Making the situation doubly difficult was that he transitioned while he was an undergrad­uate at Smith College — a women’s university in Northampton, Massachusetts. “I missed out on a lot of mentorship relations because of the difficulty of explaining,” he says.

Appropriately for a Nature News piece, the article also has some good international perspective. You should definitely go read the whole thing.