STUDY: Gay Men Less Likely To Be In STEM Fields

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Researchers say that there aren’t as many gay men working amongst them as there are straight men. Earlier this month, two economists shared with Vanderbilt University the news that gay men in same-sex couples are 12% less likely to have a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)-related bachelor’s degree than straight and bisexual men partnered with women.

The economists Christopher (Kitt) Carpenter and Dario Sansone, used data from the 2009–2018 American Community Surveys and the 2013–2018 National Health Interview Surveys. Within that data, they studied 142,641 men and women in same-sex couples and 10.8 million couples consisting of a man and a woman. The economists then analyzed undergraduate degree and occupational information. This revealed a correlation between adult experiences and academics. The results suggest that discrimination and on-the-job harassment may be keeping qualified scientists who happen to be LGBTQ out of STEM jobs.

According to Forbes, the economists found that lesbian women did not experience such a significant gap.

“There is essentially no gap among bachelor’s degree holders in STEM degrees between women in same-sex couples and women in different-sex couples,” the researchers wrote.

Photo by Lucas Vasques on Unsplash

But that’s not all, Sansone and Carpenter found that men in same-sex couples with bachelor’s degrees in STEM received those degrees at lower rates than straight men. Gay men were also 34.5% less likely to have completed a STEM-related degree than their straight peers. So, it seems that this gap starts in the education system.

But as the Guardian points out, more research is needed in order to understand what the causation of this topic is. The two economists thought along the same lines.

“A lack of data, coupled with well documented discriminatory practices against LGBQ scientists across STEM fields, has left the research community and policymakers with no clear sense of the scope of improvements that need to be made,” said Carpenter. “As with all systems, diversity is a strength. We intend for our findings to contribute to the body of research that will shape data-informed policy that protects and encourages diverse participation in STEM.” 

“These patterns are highly suggestive that the mechanisms underlying the very large gender gap in STEM fields—such as heteropatriarchy, implicit and explicit bias, sexual harassment, unequal access to funding and fewer speaking invitations—are related to the factors driving gaps in STEM fields between gay men and heterosexual men,” Sansone added.  

Not all hope is lost, however, as LGBTQ people are trying to create visibility and space in STEM spaces. In fact, earlier this month, a Polar Pride was held across the Polar Regions. Several LGBTQ scientists and residents tweeted pictures and sentiments about LGBTQ visibility within the Polar Regions and STEM-fields.

“I’m a PhD student in cryobiology, investigating the contribution of microbial blooms to the Greenland Ice Sheet melting, in a wonderful research team,” wrote Twitter user Rey Mourot. “I’m also trans, non-binary, and bisexual. That doesn’t change anything to the science.”

Mourot then added, “I know that being trans in science, as for other minorities, can be such a hassle, but research, including fieldwork, is for everyone. Let’s take our Pride to the poles and beyong ! [sic]”


Source: Vanderbilt University, Forbes, The Guardian,

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