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.

29 April, 2014

Queer in STEM mini-symposium Monday, 19 May at CalState Los Angeles

Thanks to a generous intramural grant from California State University Los Angeles, Jeremy will be traveling to LA in a few weeks so we can plan the next steps of the Queer in STEM study in person. And, while we're all in one place, we'd love to meet with local friends of the project. So:

You are invited to a discussion about issues of workplace and educational climate for LGBTQ individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to be held on the Cal State L.A. Campus on May 19, 2014. We will meet for lunch from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Alhambra Room (305) of the CSULA Student Union to engage in a critical conversation about the state of research on these topics in STEM fields, and to brainstorm ways to move efforts forward to make campus spaces and workplaces more inclusive.

Following lunch, there will be a public research presentation open to students, faculty and staff, from 3:00-4:00 p.m., also in the Alhambra Room (here's the flyer for that presentation).

The long-term goal of this project is to work together to improve the experiences of students, faculty, staff, and industry professionals. This event is coordinated by Allison Mattheis (CSULA faculty in the Charter College of Education) and Jeremy Yoder (Postdoctoral Researcher in Plant Biology, University of Minnesota), collaborators on the Queer in STEM research project.

Lunch and parking will be paid for through a CSULA Office of Research Development faculty grant. If you can join us for lunch on May 19, please RSVP here.

If you are unable to join us but would like to be involved in future conversations please email Allison.

23 April, 2014

Two great stories about coming out in academic settings

We've recently seen a couple of lovely stories from researchers who chose to come out at their academic workplaces. The first is from Z.L. "Kai" Burington, an arthropod taxonomist, who describes her experience coming out as trans* on her personal blog:

When I made my gender identity public to the department in early March, my anxiety was decreasing. Graduate students and faculty, with few exceptions, had positive reactions. Many knew or knew of Joan Roughgarden, an evolutionary biologist who transitioned in the late nineties. Some had personal experiences with trans or other queer people. I found friendships had actually strengthened due to my trust.

And the second is from sociologist Shawn Trivette, who describes his reasoning for coming out to students in an interview at Conditionally Accepted:

While personal experience is never the final authority in a field like sociology, it can be a useful illustrative tool, especially in helping students to grasp the real-world experience of sometimes abstract concepts and trends. Since I further theme my Intro class around race, class, gender, and sexuality – and ask my students to articulate their own identities along these lines – it seemed only fair to share equally.

07 April, 2014

More on the importance of LGBTQ visibility

We've previously posted David K. Smith's discussion about the importance of LGBTQ visibility in STEM workplaces, particularly academia—he's recently expanded that discussion in a column for Chemistry World, and a Flagship Lecture at the University of Liverpool. And, fortunately, there's video of that lecture. Some preliminary results from Queer in STEM make an appearance—it's great to see folks making use of the data already:

12 March, 2014

Are out LGBTQ faculty less comfortable?

Allison and I were recently excited to see a new paper in the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, which presents the first nationwide study of queer experiences in STEM workplaces—in other words, the first study that starts to address the questions that inspired the Queer in STEM project. But what that study finds is a surprising contrast to our own results.

Eric Patridge (the president of oSTEM) worked with Ramón Barthelemy and Susan Rankin to reanalyze data from Campus Pride's 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People [PDF]. That survey had 279 responses from LGBTQ faculty members, 130 of which worked in STEM fields. Patridge and his coauthors separated out 83 faculty in the social sciences, leaving 47 STEM faculty members. Similarly to our survey, the Campus Pride study asked participants to rate how "out" they were on a scale of 1 to 5, and also asked how comfortable they were on campus as a whole, in their departments, and specifically in classroom settings.

The result is surprising, especially in comparison to our own data: of the STEM faculty who answered the Campus Pride survey, those who who rated their "outness" level as 4 or 5 were much more likely to say they were uncomfortable in their department.

Queer in STEM in NASPA Knowledge Communities

The new 2014 NASPA Knowledge Communities publication [PDF] includes a preview of the Queer in STEM dataset, presenting summary information about study participants and the relationship between outness and workplace climate ratings. We're very pleased to have been invited to contribute to the Knowledge Communities publication—and to connect the results of the study to folks who might be interested in NASPA's membership of student affairs professionals.

09 January, 2014

Queer in STEM in Nature

A new article by Cameron Walker for the careers section of the journal Nature takes a look at LGBTQ experiences in scientific careers. Walker particularly cites some of our preliminary results, but she also does a great job putting them in personal context:

Scientists do not always share their personal sides in the lab. Deciding whether to be open about one's identity can be an acute issue for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) researchers. Unlike some other minorities, LGBT people “have the ability to conform, because it's not always a visible trait”, [chemist Benny] Chan says. But hiding something as basic as sexual orientation or gender identity can be detrimental to mental health and work. “You need to spend a lot of extra energy if you feel like you need to hide a part of your life,” says Chan.