A recent study conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) revealed that nearly a third of the young LGBT community avoided careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) due to the fear of judgment and discrimination. Thirty percent of the LGBT community in the UK would not choose any of the STEM careers and the rest would hide their sexuality. Why? Quite a few conjectures have been formed based on the study.
For one, the researchers feel that the fear of both LGBT citizens and women is backed up by gender stereotyping which is very much alive in these professions. As much as people deny it, getting judged often for being different is something that damages one’s self-esteem even if one chooses not to show it. This, in turn, prevents diverse talents from entering the industry. Apart from that, it can be attributed to the environment where people ridicule the LGBT community or even think of them to be diseased in a way which prevents them from coming out and showing who they really are.
The results of this study fall in line with the results of a similar study conducted in 2015 which stated, ‘homophobia in engineering was costing billions of pounds every year’. According to these results, over half of the LGBT community in engineering fields chose to remain in the closet, and 33% of the gay engineers interviewed said that they felt their sexuality had somehow acted as a barrier in their career progression.
“All these findings, coupled with the fact that there is an estimated annual shortfall of 59,000 technicians to fill engineering roles, clearly demonstrates a need for action.”, said Jo Foster, the Diversity and inclusion manager at the IET. Both these studies later documented the impact of open and free LGBT people being involved in a working environment. Researchers found that companies that had adopted such an approach had experienced a happier and more cooperative environment resulting in a 30% increase in productivity of openly LGBT employees.
Now the question arises – being in the 21st century where freedom in all forms is promoted, why do these people fear coming out or to choose these professions? The easiest answer would be, “the fear lies in their own insecurities” or a clichéd reply that ignores the problem completely and says, “we don’t have gay people in our office”. Curiously, we see more homosexuals in the film or fashion industry. Why is it that they are more comfortable in those professions?
I think it’s time to open up on these issues and to realize the fact that ideally, there are an equal number of LGBT people in every profession. The only difference is that the people in the film or fashion industries are more accepting. Maybe they know the importance of being unconventional, not having chosen the STEM careers. It could possibly be attributed to the fact that these professions are powered by strong participation from newer generations with a more diverse thought process.
But even so, science, technology, engineering, and math, are a bunch of words that fundamentally support one thing – logic. Being malicious towards someone’s sexuality which is biologically proven seems quite illogical. So yes, I sincerely believe that everyone has the right to be themselves. While a lot of LGBT people have understood that and prevent any judgment from getting in their way, there are still a lot of them waiting to come out. Isn’t it best that the world accepts them without hate and focuses on harnessing their professional excellence instead?