LGBTQ professionals in STEM are 30% more likely to experience workplace harassment compared with their non-LGBTQ peers. They’re also more likely to experience other career-related challenges, including social exclusion and professional devaluation and to consider leaving their STEM profession entirely. That’s according to a new study that surveyed more than 25,000 U.S.-based STEM workers, roughly 1000 of whom identified as LGBTQ.
Until now, data at this scale and across disciplines didn’t exist, so it’s a big step forward, says William Agnew, a Ph.D. student who serves on the executive committee of oSTEM, a professional organization that supports LGBTQ people in STEM. “It definitely corroborates what we’ve seen, that queer people do experience a lot of discrimination and harassment and challenges in the workplace and that there are big disparities,” he says. “I just look at the survey and think, ‘Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these [variables] and start thinking about interventions.’”
Lead author Erin Cech, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, hopes the new study will put LGBTQ issues front and center, allowing those who are pushing for change to make a stronger case that “there’s an issue here and this deserves our attention.” At many organizations, she says, there are people who are “interested in and invested in the issue of LGBTQ inequality, but they don’t feel like this is something that’s taken seriously—in part because there hasn’t been data showing that there’s a systemic issue.”