LGBQ Men in STEM, Core Values Clash & Stephen Hawking

STEM is losing male LGBQ undergrads, by Katie Langin of Science

A new report shows that heterosexual men are 17% more likely to stay in STEM fields than LGBQ men, compounding the evidence that STEM fields have trouble retaining non-majority groups like racial minorities and women. But the report also reveals that LGBQ women are actually 18% more likely than heterosexual women to remain in STEM. Erin Cech, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, explains that there’s “a strong devaluation of femininity in STEM,” which means LGBQ men may face more discrimination than some LGBQ women do. While the researchers still don’t know exactly why retention is low, they do know that LGBQ men tend to switch to helping professions like teaching and social work, and that LGBTQA people as a whole are more open about their identity in fields that typically have more women, like biology. Jeremy Yoder, an assistant professor of biology at California State University in Northridge, summarizes the issue: “If students are finding their passion outside STEM, that’s one thing, but we want to make sure that they’re not being told that they shouldn’t be in STEM.”

When Core Values Collide, by Pareena Lawrence of Inside Higher Ed

Pareena Lawrence, president of Hollins University, reflects on her response to core values that clashed during her time at Augustana College—specifically, free speech and diversity. It all started one morning when messages like “Feminism Is Cancer” and “Build the Wall” appeared all over the campus sidewalks in chalk. The incident made students and professors alike feel threatened and unwelcome. While many students wanted legal action from the administration, Lawrence explains that the messages “did not constitute what the law considers to be a material threat or an imminent physical danger.” Instead, she chose to institute a “free chalking zone” (to be distinguished from a “free speech zone”) and started to have fruitful conversations with conservative groups on campus. In one case, a student group wanted to invite Milos Yiannopoulos to speak, and Lawrence asked them, “If you truly believe in the positions you’re promoting, then why bring in a speaker who’s just a flamethrower? Why not bring in someone who is capable, in open discussion, of winning hearts and minds?” The students agreed. Lawrence concludes with four guidelines for an effective statement of principles on campus: keep it short and simple, inclusive, up-to-date, and in practice.

Erasing Stephen Hawking’s disability erases an important part of who he was, by Jessica Roy of Los Angeles Times

After the death of famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking last week, many eulogies have appeared online featuring an illustration of an empty wheelchair and Hawking’s silhouette walking before a backdrop of stars. While at first this may seem like a nice sentiment—“Hawking can now walk amongst the stars”—for many in the disability community, it implies that they dream of being free from their disability, which is minimizing and inaccurate. Hawking was a disability rights activist and viewed his disabilities not only as an integral aspect of his identity, but also a benefit to his work. He explained in 1984, “They have helped me in a way by shielding me from lecturing and administrative work that I would otherwise have been involved in.” Andrew Gurza, a disability rights awareness consultant and freelance writer, responded to the image: “As a fellow wheelchair user, these kinds of depictions, while perhaps well-intentioned, sting…I wouldn’t want someone to erase my identity as a disabled person in my death, as it is a huge intrinsic part of who I am and how I see the world around me.”

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