A recent survey compiled by the Institute of Physics, the Royal Astronomy Academy, and the Royal Society of Chemistry suggests that close to a third of physical scientists from the LGBTQ+ community in the UK have considered quitting their jobs due to the work environment.
For their report, researchers interviewed more than 600 STEM professionals in several industries across the UK. Most respondents identified as LGBTQ+, but a minority of cis-gender, heterosexual respondents were included.
About 18% of LGBTQ scientists reported workplace harassment, bullying, or exclusionary behaviour, compared to 10% of non-LGBTQ scientists.
“I’ve seen cases of overtly racist comments or misogynistic
comments at university,” a cis-gender gay man says in the report.
“Not in front of the person, not to the person themselves and coming actually from places of seniority. It made it very difficult to call them out. When your boss is actually making a comment … you just end up sometimes saying nothing because it comes from a position of authority and it’s very difficult to know how to react to that.”
Transgender professionals and people who don’t identify as either gender (non-binary) are almost twice as likely to experience some form of workplace abuse, with 32% of interviewees from this group reporting work conflict.
“I had a hard time as a manager, promoting a great lesbian scientist,” an unidentified cis-gender woman says in the report.
“Was that because she was lesbian? Female? Quiet? Not aggressive? Not sure. Just know that her pay was lower than other male group members, and there were often more questions about her regarding promotions or merit raises. My documentation for her promotions took 3 years to develop and had to be meticulous. The burden of proof was higher.”
Still, the situation appears to be getting better for the majority of participants.
Approximately 75% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported feeling “comfortable” at work, while 70% felt their situation was improving overall — but close to half of all respondents (49%) agreed there was an overall lack of awareness of LGBT+ issues in the workplace.
The full paper can be read online on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s website.