Last updated August 28, 2018 at 11:22 am
Science has turned the microscope on itself, examining whether LGBT students are likely to stick with STEM.
A new study has found that a student’s sexual orientation affects their likelihood to continue studying in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).
Data collected from 4162 students at 78 US colleges shows that those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer are 8 per cent less likely than heterosexual students to persist in STEM degrees by their fourth year. This rises to nearly 10 per cent when controlling for other factors that increase a student’s likelihood of being retained in STEM, such as parent employment or better high school grades.
That is the overall picture. Women from sexual minorities are actually more likely than heterosexual women to continue.
Author Bryce E. Hughes used data from the Higher Education Research Institute’s national longitudinal survey, one of the first such samples of college students that allowed disaggregation by sexual orientation.
Surprisingly, sexual minority STEM students are more likely to have participated in undergraduate research when starting out, theoretically increasing their chances of having had sustaining, high-quality interactions with faculty and of gaining a sense of “STEM identity”.
Hughes says his findings highlight the need to further address gender and sexual minority status in STEM.
“Diversity is crucial in STEM fields, providing a greater likelihood of reaching breakthroughs. However, compared to other minority groups, the LGBQ community has received little attention in conversations regarding broadening participation in STEM.”
The paper published in Science Advances.