LGBTQA+ in STEM – How to Become an Ally in the Workplace.

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Everyone deserves to feel comfortable and respected at work, but unfortunately, LGBTQ+ people in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) continue to struggle to openly be themselves. Around 40 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in STEM decide not to be openly ‘out’ in work for a number of reasons.

In the past research has demonstrated the value of diversity and yet lesbian gay, bisexual, queer or transgender individuals in STEM continue to face barriers to professional advancement. Problems like this may also be the reason why 22 percent of LGBTQ professionals have considered leaving their STEM careers at least once in the last month. Things like this drastically need to change if we hope to have a diverse workforce ready to tackle the world’s toughest problems.

The problem does not just start in work though, as research shows it is estimated that LGBT people are approximately 20 per cent less represented in STEM fields to start with than expected. A reason for this might be that men who are Gay, Bisexual or “other”, appear to be 12% less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field in comparison to heterosexual men.

Issues LGBTQ+ people face is not limited to just the STEM sector. Workforce reports state that the common issues they face include 11% of LGBT people stating that someone had disclosed their sexual orientation to others without their permission, other unspecified inappropriate comments, or conduct (11%), and verbal harassment, insults, or other hurtful comments (9%).

How to be an LGBTQ+ Ally in the Workplace

To be an LGBT ally is easy. If you already agree with equality and fair treatment in society of people who identify as LGBT, then you can already consider yourself an ally. Starting with a few practical steps

Get Informed and Ask Questions

Inform yourself of the challenge’s LGBTQ+ people face and the history behind the movement. It is your responsibility to inform yourself rather than relying on someone else. Reliable resources for information include HRC, GLAAD, the Equality Federation, and the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Try to avoid any intrusive questions and assumptions

Make sure to try and note what words a person uses to describe themselves and their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and not to apply labels to a person if you have not heard them use those labels for themselves before. Also Try things like asking someone about their partner rather than girlfriend/boyfriend or husband/wife unless you know the answer.

You might not understand everything, and that’s ok

We don’t always know or understand everything but being open, understanding and kind is the most important. It may help to discover specific campaigns that resonate with you so you can get active and focus your support to help really make a difference.

Be there

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to listen without judgement and provide an outlet for folks to share their experiences, voice concerns, or just plain vent. Being there for each other is valuable emotional labour.

Speak up

Report hearing jokes about lesbian or gay people, 41%transgender-specific and 37% bisexual-specific jokes. When you witness this behaviour, speak up. Seek out the appropriate channels and let it be known you find this unacceptable!