Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Compared to the percentage of the U.S. population that identifies as LGBTQ+, in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) LGBTQ+ workers are 17-21% less represented than non-queer workers. Men who are sexual minorities are 14% more likely to drop out of STEM degrees than non-LGBTQ+ men. Non-men overall are highly underrepresented in STEM fields, as men make up for 73% of all STEM workers, and there is very little information available about STEM professionals who aren’t cisgender. According to one study, over one third of LGBTQ+ STEM professionals “considered leaving their workplace or school in the past year” after experiencing or observing harassment or discrimination. Approximately 40% of LGBTQ+ STEM professionals are not out to their colleagues.
There is clearly a huge lack of representation from the LGBTQ+ community in STEM fields. These statistics become more significant when we look at the wage differences between STEM and non-STEM professions. Entry-level STEM positions can pay around 37% more than entry-level positions in fields such as humanities and social sciences. This significantly affects LGBTQ+ individuals who are discouraged from pursuing STEM careers, considering that 22% of the U.S. LGBTQ+ population lives in poverty (these numbers are even higher for trans people, bisexual women, and queer people living in rural areas).
The lack of LGBTQ+ representation in STEAM (STEM + arts) is also significant when we consider the role that STEAM plays in our society. Technology is continuously more integrated into our daily lives as it advances, and its impact on our lives is heavily influenced by who is behind that technology, especially for marginalized communities. A lack of representation in scientific fields such as medicine means a lack of LGBTQ+ informed research and healthcare. On a broader scale, a lack of diversity in STEAM fields is incredibly limiting for the field itself, as LGBTQ+ people bring with them their own unique perspectives which can critically challenge mainstream views in STEAM, such as binary ways of thinking about the world. The lack of representation in STEAM perhaps most importantly impacts those who have passions in STEAM fields, but who do not see people who look like them in those roles, and therefore are discouraged from pursuing degrees and careers in STEAM.
PATHS was created to change that. PATHS is a program to inspire and motivate LGBTQ+ youth and young adults interested in careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) fields through storytelling by current LGBTQ+ STEAM professionals. Through PATHS, we aim to:
Inspire LGBTQ+ youth and young adults to explore their path in STEAM fields
Create interactive opportunities to bring together LGBTQ+ STEAM professionals and LGBTQ youth and young adults,
Help LGBTQ+ STEAM professionals pay it forward by inspiring LGBTQ+ youth and young adults to get into STEAM.
We believe that by creating visibility of LGBTQ+ professionals in STEAM, we can broaden the space that exists for LGBTQ+ people in the field, while also empowering queer STEAM professionals to share their experiences as a step towards making STEAM truly inclusive for LGBTQ+ individuals.
We hope that by providing a platform for LGBTQ+ STEAM professionals to tell their stories, young people will be able to identify with other LGBTQ+ people that inspire them, find connections with them and their stories, and potentially be empowered to embark on a career path in STEAM. Everyone has a unique story, a unique path, and this program aims to celebrate diversity and differences while seeing the power and connection in our similarities.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the official PATHS trailer on Monday, November 22!
And stay tuned for PATHS episodes coming every Thursday in December!