In the Fall of 2019 (October – December), SSR conducted a survey of our members aimed at investigating diversity and inclusion within the SSR. The survey encompassed all levels of membership from regular, trainee, and emeritus.
There are a few takeaways from the results. First, unfortunately, the participation rate was low with only 191 responses collected. While this increases the risk of misrepresentation, it is large enough to provide some information.
When looking at the survey responses by separating the answers based on those self-identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ communities and those identifying as heterosexual and cisgender, one aspect that is particularly troubling is that they feel noticeably less included. As an example, 83% of those identifying heterosexual and cisgender agreed/strongly agreed that they feel like they belong at the SSR while only 63% of those self-identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ communities did (Figure 1). Encouragingly a similar number of LGBTQ+ respondents disagree/strongly disagree with the statement with 5% voicing disagreement, compared with 4% of those identifying as heterosexual and cisgender. It appears that a larger proportion of the LGBTQ+ communities do not strongly agree or disagree with the statement when compared with the heterosexual and cisgender respondents who largely agree with the statement “I feel like I belong at the SSR” (Figure 1).
Another noticeable difference was seen when comparing answers to the question, “During the SSR meetings I feel like my colleagues understand who I really am”, with 67% percent of heterosexual and cisgender respondents selecting agree/strongly agree compared with only 41% of LGBTQ+ respondents (Figure 1). Moreover, a noticeably larger percentage of LGBTQ+ respondents disagreed/strongly disagreed with the statement with 14% of respondents compared to 7% of heterosexual and cisgender respondents.
Furthermore, it appears respondents self-identifying as a member of the LGBTQ+ communities are not as comfortable as heterosexual and cisgender respondents in voicing their opinions. When measuring agreement with the statement, “During the SSR meetings I can voice a contrary opinion without fear of negative consequences or feedback”, members of the LGBTQ+ communities answered agree/strongly agree 41% of the time compared to 67% for heterosexual and cisgender respondents. Adding to this, only 55% of LGBTQ+ respondents answered agree/strongly agree to the statement “When I speak up at the SSR meetings, my opinion is valued”, compared with 66% of heterosexual and cisgender respondents. Members of the LGBTQ+ communities also felt less valued as demonstrated by the fact that 68% agree/strongly agree with the statement “I feel respected and valued by others during the SSR meetings” compared with 82% of heterosexual and cisgender respondents (Figure 1).
Admittedly the survey and data would have benefitted from having more participation, with 191 people responding. Of those that responded 82 were regular members, 66 trainees, 8 emeritus, and 35 non-members. When we separate those self-identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ communities we have 8 regular members, 7 trainees, 1 emeritus, and 4 non-members. Along with this we have only one respondent self-identifying as transgender. Therefore, care must be taken when interpreting the results.
Over the last decade the need, and voice, petitioning for safe and diverse spaces has grown and continues to rise. Unfortunately, it has been found that members of the LGBQT+ communities in STEM fields continue to experience discrimination in their workplace. A recent survey involving 25,000 full-time employed STEM professionals found LGBTQ respondents significantly more likely to experience professional devaluation when compared to non-LGBTQ+ peers (Cech and Waidzunas, 2021). Moreover, they found that LGBTQ professionals were significantly more likely to experience exclusion by their colleagues, feeling like they do not “fit in”. The SSR does not support inequality and sees the importance of including LGBTQ+ in their broader efforts towards increasing diversity and inclusion. The need to ensure that the SSR provides a safe space for individuals of these underrepresented communities led to the formation of the LGBQT+ subcommittee.
As members of the LGBTQ+ subcommittee we have the overarching goal of identifying ways to make SSR more inclusive for those who identify as LGBTQ+. It is our goal to advance the equity and inclusion of LGBTQ+ members in science and particularly within the SSR community. We have actionable goals including updating the SSR code of conduct, with the goal of more clearly protecting members of the LGBTQ+ community. We strive to provide a more welcoming/safe environment, and advocate to include relevant LGBTQ+ topics at future meetings. This will include removing hetero/cis-normativity in the language and actions of the SSR. If you feel strongly that members of the LGBTQ+ community need and deserve a scientific society that is inclusive of their experiences and provides a safe healthy environment, please consider volunteering for service on the LGBTQ+ subcommittee. If you have any concerns or would like to make suggestions, feel free to reach out to any of us in the subcommittee by email (contact information below), or through the Diversity and Inclusion Open Forum on MY SSR COMMUNITIES at ssr.org.
As a first action as part of Pride month, in support of raising awareness, we are planning several newsletter highlights. This week we summarized the SSR diversity survey administered in fall 2019. Next week we will have a personal perspective from Dr. Geraldine Delbes. This will be followed by a historic perspective on Dr. Neena Schwartz, and for the final week we will explore the role of reproductive biologists advocating for transgender rights.
Cech EA, Waidzunas TJ. (2021) Systemic inequalities for LGBTQ professionals in STEM. Science Advances 7(3):eabe0933. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe0933
Figure 1: Inclusion survey results, indicating percentage of respondents selecting their agreement level with each of the statements above.
For questions or comments, please reach out to the SSR Diversity Committee/LGBTQ+ Subcommittee via email:
Paul Dyce: firstname.lastname@example.org
Camila Bruna de Lima: email@example.com
Geraldine Delbes: Geraldine.Delbes@inrs.ca
Laura Schulz: firstname.lastname@example.org