Nearly a third of young LGBT people avoid careers in science and tech due to discrimination fears

A new study has revealed that nearly a third of LGBT young people avoid careers in science, technology and engineering due to worries about discrimination.

In the study conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), one of the largest STEM industry bodies, researchers found that 30 percent of LGBT young people in the UK would not consider a career in one of the fields due to worries about discrimination.

Diversity and inclusion manager at the IET, Jo Foster, said that subjects such as science, technology and engineering have an “image problem” that prevents both women and LGBT people from pursuing careers in them.

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Foster said: “The research backs up fears that gender stereotyping within STEM careers is alive and well, potentially damaging the diversity of talent coming into the industry.

“This, 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.”

This study echoes findings of a similar report in 2015 that discovered that homophobia in engineering was costing billions of pounds every year.

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The 2015 report was jointly published by Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke and Dr Mark McBride-Wright, Chair and Co-founder of industry network group InterEngineering.

They discovered that homophobic bullying and outdated attitudes place pressure on LGBT members of the industry to remain in the closet leading to lack of progression in the sector.

According to surveys quoted in the report, over half of LGBT people in engineering choose to remain in the closet through a fear of the impact coming out could have on their careers, and 33% of gay engineers interviewed said they felt their sexuality had acted as a barrier to career progression.

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Mr Shelbrooke – an ex Mechanical Engineer – commissioned the report to show how the industry can be “transformed through proactive, educational teamwork and leadership.”

He added: “Companies that have adopted such an approach have seen up to a 30% increase in productivity from openly LGBT employees as a direct result of a happier and more cohesive workplace.”

Both of these studies examined the impact of homophobia upon openly LGBT people in the workforce.

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However, research published this week found that 46 percent of LGBT+ employees in the US hide their sexuality at their place of employment.

LGBT+ employees’ reluctance to come out may be partly explained by the fact that 53 percent of LGBT+ workers have heard jokes about lesbian or gay people at least once in a while at work.

And one-in-five queer employees reported to HRC that they had been told or had colleagues imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner.