Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Professional Climate for LGBT Physicists

Many different issues have been discussed regarding challenges faced by women and minorities in physics. Unfortunately, very little effort has been dedicated to the challenges faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender physicists. And yes, there ARE LGBT physicists, even if you are not aware of their existence.

The APS, to their credit, has taken steps to address this. This study is the first such report to discover the state of the profession and how LGBT physicists fare in the current climate.

In the general membership survey demographic question (sent to a random sample of society members), just 2.5 percent of total respondents identified as LGBT over all, and 14 percent preferred not to provide such information. But U.S. respondents were twice as likely (3 percent) to answer as non-U.S. respondents. Respondents between 18 and 25 years of age were significantly more likely than the overall population to identify as LGBT, at 16 percent, suggesting a generational shift in comfort disclosing their status (just 6 percent of respondents in that age group declined to provide an answer).

Committee members found that LGBT physicists face uneven protection and support for legislation and policies, both in the U.S. and abroad. Some 50 percent of survey respondents rated their campus or workplace policies as “highly supportive” or “supportive,” while 30 percent characterized them as “uneven,” “lacking” or “discriminatory.” Only 40 percent of transgender respondents said their workplaces were supportive to some degree.
I personally have not observed any hostility towards LGBT physicists or even LGBT personnel in my professional career. Of course, the environment where I worked (US National Labs and Universities) already have policies strictly prohibiting discrimination and harassment against such group. I am sure others in various situations, such as private industries, will have a different atmosphere to deal with, So this study is definitely needed to have a snapshot of the situation at this point in time.



Hamish Johnston said...

Here's an article by Physics World's Louise Mayor about what happened when physicists at CERN started an LGBT group:

ZapperZ said...

Link doesn't work for me.


Hamish Johnston said...

Feature articles such as Louise's are available to members. Membership is free and we won't spam you anything that you haven't asked for.