STEM Inqueery: How Belonging in STEM Might Differ Depending on LGBTQ Identities and Identity Openness

STEM Inqueery: How Belonging in STEM Might Differ Depending on LGBTQ Identities and Identity Openness poster

Audio Presentation:

Audio Transcript

Research Authorship:

Jasmine Elise Graham, Kaitlyn M. Minnicks, & Elizabeth R. Brown

Faculty Mentor:

Dr. Elizabeth R. Brown | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology


Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies have investigated gender (women versus men; Kim et al., 2018), race (Latinx and Black; Unfried et al., 2015), and culture differences (Asian versus American; Brown et al., 2018); however, few studies have looked at the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community (Stout & Wright, 2016). STEM has been stereotyped as a cis (same gender as birth) straight male field (Miller et al., 2020); STEM is viewed as an agentic (self-focused, achievement-oriented) field and lacking communal (other-oriented) opportunities (Diekman et al., 2010). When communal opportunities are integrated into fields that are stereotyped as being noncommunal, STEM interest is boosted (Brown et al., 2018). This raises the question: what happens to LGBTQ individuals in STEM? LGBTQ individuals may feel less open or out about their LGBTQ identity in a STEM field when it is more male-dominated (Yoder & Mattheis, 2016). Further, LGBQ students are less likely to stay in STEM compared to non-LGBQ students (Hughes, 2018); transgender students presenting feminine within STEM are not respected as much by their peers compared to other students (Kersey, 2018). This study will explore whether LGBTQ individuals’ desire for communal opportunities within STEM careers shapes their motivation to pursue STEM, their expectations for success in STEM, and their feelings of belonging in STEM. We hypothesize that LGBTQ individuals with low-openness about their LGBTQ identity will have less motivation, expectations for success, and feelings of belonging in STEM than LGBTQ individuals with high-openness and non-LGBTQ individuals.

Hello, my name is Jasmine Elise Graham and I am going to tell you about ‘STEM Inqueery: How Belonging in STEM Might Differ Depending on LGBTQ Identities and Identity Openness’.

There have been many studies looking into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, otherwise known as STEM, specifically looking into why women don’t go into STEM; in addition, there have been studies investigating into why different races that are not White or Asian are not pursuing STEM; further, studies have also asked why various cultures, like Asia, have a bigger STEM increase while the United States doesn’t; however, there has been limited research exploring reasons why LGBTQ individuals are not going into STEM fields, and for that matter, there is a noticeable lack of availability of statistics regarding the numbers of LGBTQ individuals going into STEM.

STEM fields have been notoriously stereotyped as being predominantly cisgender (cisgender meaning the same gender as birth) straight-male and agentic-focused with a lack of communal opportunities. Agency is defined as being self-focused or the desire of achievement, status, or individualism; whereas communion is categorized as other-oriented or the desire of helping or working with others. Communal opportunities may boost feelings of belonging to STEM, which in turn boosts the performance of that individual in those STEM fields.

Shifting the focus to research investigating LGBTQ and STEM, there have been studies examining LGBTQ individuals being open regarding to their identity within STEM fields. To direct your attention to the graph under LGBTQ & STEM, LGBTQ individuals that are in STEM fields with a higher percentage of women show greater openness about their identity, with the exception of psychology. For psychology, there wasn’t as much openness regarding their identity, and this may be a result of psychology being perceived more female-dominated and for LGBTQ individuals as fields become more one gender dominated this reduces their openness about their identity.

Now, we are presented with the question: Why are LGBTQ individuals not being as open about their identity in STEM fields? Well, this could be attributed to their fear of receiving direct or indirect hostility from non-LGBTQ individuals. These direct or indirect hostilities could be anything from stereotypical jokes, heteronormative statements, or technological viewpoints. Interactions with direct and/or indirect hostilities may cause an LGBTQ individual in the field of STEM to feel isolated, invisible, or the need to bottle up their identity, which in turn, further causes them to have lower satisfaction with STEM in itself and a desire to leave the field entirely.

Moving on to our proposed study design, we will be collecting an ideal sample of 390 from two sources. MTurk with the intent of being a generalized sample, while SONA from UNF for a localized sample. The three groups we are going to collect data are LGBTQ individuals, non-LGBTQ women, and non-LGBTQ men. Some of our measures that we are planning on using for this study are the following: an openness measure, a communal and agentic opportunities measure, and a belonging in STEM measure. For our openness measure, we will be asking them to, “Use the following rating scale to indicate how open you are about your LGBT identity to the people listed below.”, which these people could be parents or their college peer group. For our communal opportunities measure, we will be asking them “How much would careers in these fields, listed below, provide opportunities to fulfill goals in affiliation?” and give them a list of STEM fields to rate. For our belonging in STEM measure, we will be asking them how much they agree with this statement, which is: “I am confident I made the right decision in choosing my program.”

When exploring our expected results, we are expecting that LGBTQ individuals will have less belonging to STEM than non-LGBTQ individuals, and that non-LGBTQ women will have less belonging than non-LGBTQ men. We are also expecting that LGBTQ individuals that are not open about their identity will feel significantly less belonging to STEM compared to if they were open about their identity. Also, if LGBTQ individuals or non-LGBTQ women will have less belonging to STEM compare to non-LGBTQ men when they perceive STEM to have few communal opportunities.

If you have any questions that you wish to ask, feel free to email me. My email is located at the bottom of the poster or in the script document. Thank you for your time.