According to the Nature article "LGBTQ scientists are still left out" there are some "heteronormative assumptions" in the STEM field which artificially suppress the number of LGBTQ people in the field. This view of the sciences¹ doesn't match my own experience and anecdotal evidence. (I have seen evidence of a sexism issue but it is a separate issue from LGBT.) In my (admittedly subjective) experience, people in STEM tend to be more open-minded than any other profession.

The Nature article cites a few studies, but none seems to be directly on-point (one study focused on government workers rather than scientists in academia-proper, and another had results that were not statistically significant and whose authors admitted they had made mistakes). Again maybe I'm wrong, but I would like to see a more relevant peer-reviewed study (gender studies or social science) explaining this problem.

What robust studies exist on the representation of LGBTQ individuals² in STEM fields within academia?

¹ The idea that STEM fields are especially constrained comes up in other contexts, too. For example, according to an opinion piece by Manil Suri published in the New York Times, in science it is also not appropriate to talk about hobbies. Manil Suri is a famous scholar; his description of the situation in academia is worrying, and gives the impression that behavior is constrained and under close scrutiny. Being too expressive of personal identity can be viewed as running counter to scientific neutrality. In competitive venues, where complete immersion in one’s field might be the promoted ideal, the mention of an extracurricular pursuit can even be seized upon as a lack of commitment. I remember a young mathematician at a prestigious research institute sharing his love for piano playing after hearing I wrote fiction. “Don’t tell anyone in my department I own a piano,” he requested in the next breath. This is a shock to me because I perceived the STEM field as most open-minded.

² Representation could measure the percentage of LGBTQ faculty in STEM fields in comparison to other academic disciplines, or something like dropout rates for LGBTQ students in STEM fields compared to dropout rates for other students.

  • 1
    The solution, as you say all the studies so far have flaws, is for you to conduct a definitive study.
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 19, 2018 at 6:57
  • 1
    @NajibIdrissi No, where did you see or read that?
    – user94263
    Jul 19, 2018 at 8:28
  • 1
    @Stefan You are essentially saying "I read that STEM people don't like others to talk about their hobbies; does this mean that they also don't like other people to talk about their sexual orientation/gender identity?"
    – user9646
    Jul 19, 2018 at 8:34
  • 2
    @stefan yes, but "In my experience..." is not the same as qualitative research.
    – Flyto
    Jul 19, 2018 at 13:13
  • 2
    @stefan You just stated in a comment above, 6 hours ago "I don't know how to do study in social science". So give qualitative social scientists some credit, they don't make their careers by writing simply about their own experiences.
    – Flyto
    Jul 19, 2018 at 14:52

1 Answer 1


The basic answer is that there is very little hard data. One study that I did find (via ResearchGate - I didn't have direct access if it even exists) is "Factors impacting the academic climate for LGBQ STEM faculty", Eric V. Patridge et al., Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering 20(1) 75-98 (2014).

Several quotes stand out:

Amid the current nationally led campaign to increase the STEM workforce, there are numerous institutional efforts to support women and underrepresented ethnic minority STEM professionals; however, virtually none of these focuses on LGBT communities.


A survey of the literature reveals that data-driven research of LGBT communities has been restricted to the social sciences, humanities, and health fields; there are only a handful of publications focused on LGBT communities in the STEM fields, and none of these are based on empirical data. Qualitative academic discussions report that LGBT populations are discouraged from entering the STEM fields because heteronormative climates are so widespread (Bilimoria and Stewart, 2009; Cech and Waidzunas, 2011; Gunckel, 2009). Our analyses support previous discussions...

The data in this 2014 paper was drawn from a 2010 study. Of some 5000 respondents, 498 were faculty. Of those, 59 were from STEM. After some further down selection, they ended up with 47 STEM faculty.

Points of some interest include:

In response to questions on internal experiences and identity, STEM faculty (n = 47) reported the highest level of discomfort across the three questions included in the survey (campus, department, and classroom) (Table 3), although these differences were not significant. Notably, faculty from STEM departments reported significantly higher levels of professional outness than did those from other departments [2(4) = 16.7, p < .01].


the more out a STEM faculty member, the more likely it was that he or she was uncomfortable.

and, relative to all faculty in the study,

STEM faculty members (n = 47) were most likely to consider leaving their institutions (53.2%)


Our analyses support the hypothesis that heteronormative climates contribute to LGBQ faculty members seeking alternative employment options, and department level analyses suggest this closely describes LGBQ STEM faculty.

In addition,

The loss of current and future faculty mentors for LGBQ communities is particularly problematic because there are so few resources that support LGBQ students. While there are countless organizations dedicated to the development of women and minority STEM talent, there are only two national organizations that encourage the development of LGBQ STEM talent.

In Physical Review Physics Education Research there is a paper titled "Enriching gender in physics education research: A binary past and a complex future", which touches on needing to look more broadly than just men/women. However, it does not appear to have any useful data on LGBT in physics.

Much of the rest I can find is online, non-peer reviewed studies. While interesting reading, it is harder to draw conclusions much less figure out what to do.

(As a response to your addendum to the question - it is quite clear that the person described in the New York Times Op-Ed piece was indeed, and sadly, afraid to reveal their piano playing. I can easily imagine that behavior coming from long experience with negative responses over time which have little to do with playing the piano. You might be interested in Gay and in STEM Fields which rebuts some of the points made in the Manil Suri op-ed piece you reference.)

  • 1
    "STEM faculty members (n = 47) were most likely to consider leaving their institutions (53.2%)." Is this all STEM faculty? LGBT faculty? Compared to similar people in other fields? Compared to cishet people in their own field? The choppiness of your quotes makes interpreting some of them difficult. Jul 19, 2018 at 14:09
  • @StellaBiderman - sorry, I was getting edgy on quoting large blocks of text from the paper. It is a good read as a whole. I will edit to clarify...
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 19, 2018 at 14:11
  • 85 percent said they felt welcome in the workplace or were treated the same as straight colleagues. OMG, this is helpful it tuns out the thing is possitive
    – user94263
    Jul 19, 2018 at 15:13
  • 1
    @Stefan - my take away was that, while slightly positive with respect to other LGBT faculty, there still is a long way to go before there are no issues at all...
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 19, 2018 at 15:17
  • yes, for sure. constant strugle under current system
    – user94263
    Jul 19, 2018 at 15:39

You must log in to answer this question.