As in many parts of society, diversity is not as high as it should be in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), or specifically in evolutionary biology and ornithology—the fields that I am active in. This is unfortunately true in terms of gender, ethnicity, and sexual identity. You can read my musings sparked by comments in the field in 1999, about being an openly gay ornithologist and evolutionary biologist, and about how complex identity questions can be in my essay Does everything have to be gay? over at the BOU Diversity Blog. (The original title was based on a central quote and might draw more readers: “Are they going to fuck while birdwatching, or what’s the deal?”).
So what to do? A common explanation to why there are so few [select ground for discrimination/under-representation] is that employers or organizers knew so few of them… Well, there is an excellent initiative that deals with this issue very hands-on by providing a list:
- Diversify EEB highlights women and other minorities among ecologists and evolutionary biologists. This is an excellent resource for search committees.
There are also initiatives aiming at increasing the visibility of LGBT scientists, in which I have been happy to participate:
- LGBT STEM deals with… issues for LGBT scientists in STEM. Here you can also take part of the testimonies from LGBT STEM researchers about how being LGBT has affected their professional lives. Yours truly is featured in an interview.
- 500 Queer Scientists is “a visibility campaign for LGBTQ+ people and their allies working in STEM and STEM-supporting jobs”. I contributed my profile, which was also selected by the Advocate Magazine editors as one of two dozen “queer scientists to make your day smarter”. 😉
Pride in STEM aims to showcase and support all LGBT+ people in STEM fields, and took the initiative for the first international LGBTSTEM Day in 2018. It was celebrated around the globe on July 5, since it can be written as ‘507’ which is (in nanometres) the wavelength of the colour green featured in the rainbow flag and is representative of nature – or as ‘705’ which is the wavelength of the color red, representing life. For the second edition in 2019, I co-organized the celebration of the LGBTSTEM Day at the University of Oregon.
A cool project is Queer in STEM, in which a group of STEM researchers studies what it means to be LGBTQ in STEM. They have previously performed a large-scale survey that makes up the basis for scientific papers and talks, and recently undertook the second and extended edition of that (survey unfortunately closed).
Finally, my brilliant friend Maren Wellenreuther guest-edited a special issue of Evolutionary Applications together with Sarah Otto, which highlights the contributions of outstanding female researchers in evolutionary biology.
Now go make your work place or your upcoming conference a little bit more diverse (and I will try to do the same)!