For the last 4 years or so, I’ve helped run an organization called LGBTQ+ STEM, which seeks to promote and support LGBTQ+ folks in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We achieve this mainly through two outlets right now – a blog with interview profiles, and an annual one-day free-to-attend fully-catered science conference, the LGBTQ+ STEMinar, which will have it’s 5th iteration in Birmingham in January.
Last week, I spent a day with Beth Montague-Hellen, the founder and other force behind the group, as we celebrated and reflected on 5 years of successes, and looked ahead to the next 5.
In 2014, there weren’t many other organizations dedicated to queer folks in STEM, and now there are quite a few, all over the world, and who rally together to celebrate LGBTSTEM Day each year. We certainly never would have guessed that there would be so much progress in the scientific community in such a short time.
Looking inward, the LGBTQ+ STEMinar went from about 40 people at the first one in Sheffield in 2016, to the first externally-organized one in York two years later, and now with >300 registered participants for the 2020 edition in Birmingham. Clearly, there was a gap that we were able to fill.
The website now boasts >115 profiles of LGBTQ+ folk in all areas of STEM subjects, from all career stages, and covering a huge swath of the world, and we continue to get new submissions regularly. The fine folks at 500 Queer Scientists have done something similar, with shorter paragraphs, but I’ve always favoured our longer form, which lets readers know a bit more about the interviewee, and lets them elaborate without space restrictions. And they’re still quite popular – we get about 2000-3000 visitors a month to the site.
So what do the next 5 years have in store?
First off, as an organization that is directed at queer folks in STEM, we want to hear from queer folk in STEM! We put together a short survey, which can be found here, and should only take a few minutes for anyone to fill in, and tell us what they’d like to see from us as an organization.
And secondly, we have our own thoughts – becoming an officially registered charity is top among them, and something we’re working on actively at the moment.
Personally speaking, it’s amazing to be even having that kind of discussion when I lamented only a few years ago that finding other LGBTQ+ scientists was nigh on impossible. There’s a fantastic community here, and one I’m proud to have played a roll, however small, in building.