25 September, 2013

More on outness and feeling safe

Responding to this morning's new results post—which shows that survey participants who rate their workplaces as safe for LGBTQ folks are more likely to be out to colleagues, David K. Smith (@professor_dave) makes some great points:

Preliminary results: Out of the lab closet?

Please note that the findings reported here are preliminary as we continue data analysis. We welcome feedback, questions, and the opportunity to share information. However, we ask that you do not cite any information found on this site without contacting us directly at jbyoder@umn.edu or amatthe5@calstatela.edu beforehand. Thank you!

So what did all the queer STEM professionals who answered the Queer in STEM survey tell us about their experiences? One of the first, most straightforward ways we can understand people’s experiences is to ask them, how “out” are they?

Being out, or open about our gender identities and orientations, can be quite complicated for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, or queer. Some of us have a presentation that’s androgynous or gender variant enough for most people we meet to pick up on it; some of us try to provide a hint by wearing a rainbow wristband or other indicator. And, as several people pointed out after answering the questionnaire, those of us who identify as transgender with a gay or lesbian or bi orientation may be out about their gender identity but not about their orienation—or vice versa!

So, for many of us, coming out is a daily task. Still, how out we are in a given situation or social group says a lot about how comfortable we are in that context.

17 September, 2013

Getting an early start as a queer in STEM

This profile of a budding scientist made us smile:

Meet Jack Andraka, a 16-year-old inventor, scientist, and cancer researcher who, in 2012, was awarded the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair’s prestigious “Gordon E. Moore Award” for his invention that detects an increase of a protein that indicates the presence of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during early stages when there is a higher likelihood of a cure.

And Jack is gay—he's been out since he was thirteen. But even in an age when it's possible to start coming to terms with his sexuality that early, he's facing something we've heard about from many of the folks who participated in our study:

Jack is also openly gay, and says that his family and a few close friends had known for about three years, and are very accepting.

He says he used to worry that there were few gay role models in the science field, or that he would be perceived as “that weird gay kid.” But now he hopes he can help inspire other LGBT youth to get involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

We're hopeful that the Queer in STEM study can help provide greater visibility for LGBTQ scientists—so that smart, ambitious kids like Jack don't have to look so hard for mentors who understand their experiences.

09 September, 2013

Preliminary results: Who answered the survey?

Update, 25 September 2013: Please note that the findings reported here are preliminary as we continue data analysis. We welcome feedback, questions, and the opportunity to share information. However, we ask that you do not cite any information found on this site without contacting us directly at jbyoder@umn.edu or amatthe5@calstatela.edu beforehand. Thank you!

How many people working in scientific and technical careers identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, or queer? What fields do we study? How have our careers proceeded, compared to our straight colleagues? How have our identities affected our experiences in scientific workplaces? These questions are not well studied, and they're some of most important motivations for the Queer in STEM study, which seeks to better understand LGBTQ experiences in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers by directly engaging with STEM professionals who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum.

The study consists of three phases: (1) an online survey, conducted at this very website from 7 May to 31 July 2013; then (2) e-mail responses to 10 open-ended questions by survey participants who volunteered their contact information; and (3) individual interviews conducted by phone or Skype. We’re just beginning to analyze the written responses and, with generous support from NOGLSTP, transcribe recordings from the interviews. In the meantime, though, we’re able to begin reporting results from the online survey!

Today we’ll start by answering the most basic question: who answered the survey?