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Systemic Inequalities Hinder LGBTQ STEM Professionals

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LGBTQ STEM professionals are more likely to experience career limitations, social exclusion, harassment, and devaluation of their scientific and technical knowledge than their non-LGBTQ peers, according to "Systemic Inequalities for LGBTQ Professionals in STEM," published in Science Advances.  

LGBTQ workers also report more health difficulties, as well as greater intentions to leave STEM disciplines and employment sectors — patterns not explained by differences in training, experience, or work dedication. 

"The question of whether LGBTQ professionals encounter systemic disadvantages in STEM . . . is important not only for fully mapping the landscape of demographic inequality in STEM but for identifying places where STEM fails to live up to its meritocratic ideals," write sociologist Erin Cech of the University of Michigan and colleague Tom Waidzunas of Temple University. 

Data came from STEM-related professional societies with some 25,000 members, including 1,000 individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Cech and Waidzunas examined potential inequalities by LGBTQ status along five dimensions: career opportunities, professional devaluation, social exclusion, health and wellness difficulties, and intentions to leave STEM.

LGBTQ professionals have fewer opportunities to develop their skills than non-LGBTQ peers and less access to resources they need to do their jobs well, the study says.

About 20% of LGBTQ professionals also said they feel devalued about their STEM expertise, despite having the same experience and education levels as their non-LGBTQ counterparts. 

One-third of the respondents encounter social exclusion compared to 22% of their non-LGBTQ colleagues. About 30% of LGBTQ respondents experienced workplace harassment in the past year, the study says.

"We suspected we might find that LGBTQ professionals experienced marginalization among their colleagues, due to enduring biases toward LGBTQ-identifying people," says Cech, assistant professor of sociology. "What was striking was that these inequalities extended to how colleagues treated their scientific and technical contributions.

From University of Michigan
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