LGBTQ+ Inclusion in STEM: Barriers within Barriers - Minorities within Minorities (BWB-MWM)

  • multicoloured test tubes

STEM professions have stereotypically been dominated by white, heterosexual men – a masculine culture with the expectation of heteronormative identity. Not surprisingly, the scientific world is now at high risk of losing its LGBTQ+ scientists because of the hostile, exclusionary, working and learning environments we have created. What are the cumulative effects of this environment on those who are minoritised within the LGBTQ+ community?  The LGBTQ+ scientists of colour working in white-dominated spaces? The LGBTQ+ women scientists of colour working in men-dominated disciplines and white-dominated spaces? We seek to understand how these minorities within minorities navigate the layered barriers to inclusion across both the UK and US scientific landscape. Applying an intersectional lens, we will provide a deeper insight into the barriers and enablers to LGBTQ+ inclusion in STEM, and establish a richer evidence base to inform effective strategies to prevent attrition and increase retention for all LGBTQ+ groups in STEM

BARRIERS WITHIN BARRIERS - MINORITIES WITHIN MINORITIES (BWB-MWM): the challenges for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the UK-US STEM landscape through an intersectional lens 

This research is funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the UK Science and Innovation Network in the USA, and forms part of the LGBTQ+ Inclusion in STEM Programme. The research seeks to build on and scale-up previous research carried out in the UK and US that has explored workplace experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) [1−4], and particularly the exclusionary and hostile environments often encountered in the physical sciences that contribute to high attrition rates (the ‘leaky pipeline’) for LGBTQ+ scientists and engineers [5]. We also seek to add a new dimension to this research, by analysing LGBTQ+ inclusion through an intersectional lens.

This is a new transatlantic research collaboration between UK and US researchers, bringing together a multidisciplinary and international team of experts across STEM, EDI, social sciences and humanities.

The principal aim of this research is to undertake a comparative cross-culture study of how layers of marginalisation in STEM differentially impact the attrition of LGBTQ+ groups in both the UK and US.  By applying an intersectional lens, we will provide a deeper insight into the barriers and enablers to LGBTQ+ inclusion in STEM in both UK and US contexts, and establish a richer evidence base to inform effective inclusion strategies (taking a systems-based approach and not attempting to ‘fix’ individuals) to prevent attrition and increase retention for all LGBTQ+ groups in STEM.

In order to meet the project aims, five project objectives are defined to:

  1. Identify the barriers and enablers to inclusion for minoritised groups within the LGBTQ+ community in UK and US STEM. For example, the experiences of LGBTQ+ people of colour in white-dominated spaces, and LGBTQ+ women of colour in men-dominated disciplines and white-dominated spaces.
  2. Determine the extent to which experiences in Objective 1 differ according to context. For example, by country and region (UK/US – including culture, LGBTQ+ legislation, socioeconomics, religion), STEM discipline (particularly with regards diversity), and STEM setting (e.g. academia / industry and laboratory / fieldwork).  
  3. Determine the extent to which context-specific experiences shape attrition and retention in STEM for LGBTQ+ individuals from all groups. For example, do women-heavy spaces (e.g. in Biomedical Engineering) provide a more supportive and psychologically safe environment for LGBTQ+ individuals? and if so, does this lead to better retention?
  4. Build on existing knowledge to provide an evidence base to shape inclusive policies and practices for LGBTQ+ scientists in both the UK and US
  5. Establish the building blocks for an LGBTQ+ inclusion strategy for UK-US STEM, and contextual plans for implementation across UK-US sectors.

UK Project Launch and Networking Event

  • Date: 20 November 2023
  • Time: 15.00–18.00
  • Venue: Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London
  • Register Attendance: Places are limited

*** The LGBTQ+ Inclusion in STEM Climate Survey and the LGBTQ+ Inclusion in STEM Policy & Practice Survey will open on 9 November ***

Project Team




  1. Institute of Physics, Royal Astronomical Society & Royal Society of Chemistry (2019). Exploring the Workplace for LGBT+ Physical Scientists
  2. Atherton, T. J. et al. (2016). LGBT Climate in Physics: Building an Inclusive Community. American Physical Society. 
  3. Yoder, J. B. & Mattheis, A. (2016). ‘Queer in STEM: Workplace Experiences Reported in a National Survey in LGBTQA Individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Careers, Journal of Homosexuality, 63(1), 1−27.
  4. E. A. Cech and T. J. Waidzunas (2021). Systemic inequalities for LGBTQ professionals in STEM, Sci. Adv. 7(3): eaao6373. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe0933.
  5. Hughes, B.E. (2018). Coming out in STEM: Factors affecting retention of sexual minority STEM students, Sci. Adv. 4(3): eaao6373. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao6373

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