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Invisible diversity in science and universities

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Scientists are much more diverse than the stereotypical picture of an old man in a lab coat with wild hair. There are people of any gender, any sexuality, any skin colour, young and old, who love science and research; they are just often not as visible.

I am a queer woman studying chemistry in a master’s programme. In my undergraduate studies, I had a diverse group of peers around me. But when I look at higher career stages, the diversity decreases. During my studies at two different universities, I encountered one lesbian biology professor, no queer chemistry professors and generally most professors are male. Much like the stereotype, white heterosexual cis men are the default scientists. Where are the non-binary science professors? Where are the homosexual academic counsellors?

One reason why you don’t see many queer scientists is that many feel they have to keep their identity to themselves. Sexual and gender identity is usually not openly discussed in the workplace or classroom and is often regarded as irrelevant. People think all that matters are the results of your research or, as a student, your grades and your performance in the lab. Like many queer students, every time I entered a new lab environment, I asked myself: Should I come out to my co-workers?

 

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