In his latest New York Times column, Mathematics Professor Manil Suri wrote about the underrepresentation of LGBT professionals in STEM. The column, titled “Why is Science so Straight?” explored the reasons for the invisibility of LGBT members in STEM fields, what Suri called an “unspoken convention.”
“Underrepresentation is just one factor that reduces visibility. Unlike women and minorities, whose status is usually obvious, sexual orientation is a hidden characteristic. The fact that a sizable proportion of the L.G.B.T. STEM work force is closeted (43 percent, according to a 2015 estimate) further deepens this effect,” he wrote.
Suri also noted that the STEM work culture could play a role in reduced LGBT visibility: “There is a another, more insidious factor at work. STEM culture is very problem-focused. Conversations, even over lunch, typically remain restricted to work matters (which is very different from what I’ve noticed in arts and humanities settings),” he explained.
In his column, Suri provided perspective on how STEM professions could move forward in regards to increasing diversity: “More critically, STEM culture must rein in the pressure to separate professional and personal identities. It should view its workers more holistically, welcoming their interests and differences as sources of enhanced resourcefulness.”