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LGBTIQ* in Schience and Technology

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

Audre Lorde

Diversity empowers (smartness)

Equality and diversity programmes for LGBTIQ*-people are increasingly being designed and implemented in many areas of our lives. The major players in business, politics and law are all making significant progress in promoting diversity in their organisations. Equality for LGBTIQ*-people is no longer the exception in many places, but the norm!

Engineering is on a similar path, although it still lags well behind other fields. An industry long considered a male-only domain has now recognized the need to promote broad interest and enthusiasm for engineering professions.

LGBTIQ* in Research

The contributions and significance of LGBTIQ*-people in science have a long and rich history worldwide. Philosopher Sir Francis Bacon, astrophysicist Neil Divine, computer science founder Alan Turing, and polymath Leonardo da Vinci are historic examples of people from the LGBTIQ*-community whose scientific achievements have forever changed the course of the world.

It is generally assumed that science and technology are strictly objective and factual. Nevertheless, a person's identity undoubtedly shapes his or her view of the world and also of science. By being aware of minorities such as members of the LGBTIQ*-community, STEM subjects in particular can multiply their perspectives and potential for problem solving! It is therefore crucial to support diversity in research teams and foster an inclusive work environment to meet the high demands of science in the future.

LGBTIQ* in Education

Diversity is vital to many aspects of life and higher education is an integral part of it. When you consider that today’s students will be tomorrow’s decision makers then the importance of conveying openness to people from the LGBTIQ*-community at our university becomes obcious:

1. Bringing in a range of perspectives

Both students and faculty bring their lived experience and perspectives to the university with them. This is important for teaching students to develop broader minds, empathy and tolerance for different lifestyles. A diverse teaching staff helps  students to gain experience in this respect, along with different didactic approaches, learning focus as well as ways of looking at our world. Diversity within the student community provides new opportunities for young people to get in touch with different ways of thinking and living. Without these important perspectives, students would leave our university with their existing view of the world affirmed, but not well equipped to make their contributions in a diverse and open society.

2. Raising innovative thinkers

Having to accept different perspectives and ideas challenges people and challenges them in coming up with new creative solutions to problems. By studying in a diverse group of people, young people have more opportunities to become innovative thinkers. This is a huge benefit in today’s economy and will be crucial in the  future.

3. Providing role models

Most students have teachers who have similar lived experiences to them and so serve as their role models. However, students with disabilities as well as LGBTIQ*-students often don’t have role models to look up to during their time at the university. But once diversity has become a normal aspect of life for our students it will eventually take its place in society!

Well-known LGBTIQ*-Personalities from the Scientific Community

American physicist, Sally Ride was the third woman in space and an award winning "hero of aviation". Her bisexual identity was kept  secret until she passed away in 2012. In 2013 Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States  posthumously. Her life partner Tam O’Shaughnessy received the award on her behalf in a ceremony in the White House.

Alan Turing is one of the most notable and tragic gay personalities. A mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst and philosopher, he is considered the founder of modern computer science. During the Second World War his leading role in cracking the German Enigma encryption Code helped shortening the war in Europe and millions of lives.

However owing  to his homosexuality his achievements were only appreciated long after his death. In 1952 he was even convicted for "gross indecency" which led him to accept a chemical castration treatment. It took many decades for the UK to appropriately honour him, including an official public apology on behalf of the British government and the £50 bank note that depicts his likeness.

Former CEO of Siemens UK, Jürgen Maier is a British-Austrian businessman who now works as a Industrialist and Business Advisor. He received a master’s degree in Production Engineering from Trent Polytechnic (Now Nottingham Trent University) was awarded the title of honorary professor of Engineering from the University of Manchester in 2014. In 2017 he even ecame a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Jürgen Maier has spoken out about his fears of coming out as a homosexual man earlier in his career which led him to hiding his sexuality from colleagues for over fifteen years. However, he has stated that coming out has finally allowed him to be himself which resulted in him becoming a stronger personality.

Born in Moscow, Sofia Kovalevskaya, was the first major Russian female mathematician, the first woman to be editor in a scientific journal. She made major contributions to the Cauchy–Kovalevskaya-theorem. Women at that time were could not enroll at an university, but Kovalevskaya was allowed to attend mathematics classes at the University of Heidelberg. In 1874 she presented papers on topics such as partial differential equations, the dynamics of the rings of Saturn, and elliptic integrals. Kovalevskaya became the first woman in Europe to earn a doctorate degree and later on, in 1889 a professorship in mathematics. She had a long term "romantic friendship" with actress Anne Charlotte Edgren-Leffler that lasted until Kovalevskaya’s death from influenza at the age of 41.

Mark Goresky is a mathematician who founded intersection homology with Robert MacPherson. He received his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1976. His thesis, was written under the supervision of MacPherson. Robert MacPherson and his mathematics collaborator-and then life partner Mark Goresky now reside in Princeton. His first Ph.D. student, Mark Goresky, happened to became his life partner, a rare arrangement in mathematics.

LGBTIQ* in Engineering

There are many opportunities to increase LGBTIQ*-visibility, but perhaps most importantly, LGBTIQ*-role models are necessary to really raise general awareness of the challenges they face. Personal stories are incredibly powerful and therefore having people from the LGBTIQ*-community share their experiences is crucial in providing their visibility.

Check out these links for numerous video blogs from LGBTIQ*-engineers talking about their experiences: