Work in Progress: Building a safe queer community in STEM-It takes a village to support a village

Kelly J. Cross, Stephanie Farrell, Rocio C. Chavela Guerra

    Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

    2 Scopus citations


    Recognizing the need to attract and retain talented individuals to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) professions, the National Academies advocate that diversity in STEM must be a national priority [1]. To build a diverse workforce, educators within STEM disciplines must continue working to create inclusive environments to prevent historically underrepresented and underserved students from leaving the field. Additionally, previous research provides compelling evidence that diversity among students and faculty is crucially important to the intellectual and social development of all students, and failure to create an inclusive environment for minority students negatively affects both minority and majority students [2]. Research about the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals in STEM disciplines is critical to improving the climate for LGBTQ+ in our classrooms, departments and professions. A 2011 exploratory study by Cech and Waidzunas found that opportunities for success among engineering students that identified as lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) was hindered by engineering's heteronormative and chilly climate, with many LGB-identifying students facing both academic and social isolation [3]. In a later study, Cech and Rothwell found that, in comparison to their non-LGBTQ peers, LGBTQ engineering students face more marginalization and devaluation in their programs, which in turn partially contributes to more negative health and wellness issues for these individuals [4]. The heteronormative/cis-normative culture in engineering and STEM also frequently imposes passing (acting with the goal of being perceived as heterosexual) and covering (revealing certain aspects of your identity with the goal of being perceived as non-LGBTQ+ in certain settings) demands on both students and faculty. With regard to faculty, when comparing academic climate and career consequences among LGBTQ faculty in various fields, Partridge, Barthelemy, and Rankin found that those in STEM fields reported the highest level of discomfort on campus, in departments, and in classrooms; those who faced discomfort were more than twice as likely to consider leaving their institution [5].

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number1660
    JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
    StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
    Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
    Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • General Engineering


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