STEM, LGBTQ and YOU: A conference exploring LGBTQ+ experiences in STEM

Second year LANS student Claire discusses her role as Outreach Officer for the University’s first oSTEM conference.

oSTEM at University of Birmingham is a university-wide society and also a chapter of oSTEM Inc. The oSTEM mission is to “empower LGBTQ people in STEM to succeed personally, academically, and professionally by cultivating environments and communities that nurture innovation, leadership, and advocacy”. At the Birmingham chapter, I am the current Outreach Officer meaning I organise a multitude of speakers to talk about their experiences being LGBTQ in STEM.

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This year, thanks to the generous donation of the Alumni Impact Fund, our committee organised the first ever oSTEM at University of Birmingham conference: STEM, LGBTQ and You 2019. For this, I had to organise various different speakers to come in and talk throughout the day. I managed to secure 8 different speakers, emailing various societies and communities over the Christmas holiday up until the event! This was such a good opportunity for networking and discovering LGBTQ communities within various prestigious institutions – I messaged frequently with the Institute of Physics!

Of course, studying Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences, my influence on the conference incorporated some interdisciplinarity. First, I incorporated a linguistics talk into the line-up within which linguistics, sociology, and computational biology were considered. It was so useful to include a non-typical science discipline as the study of linguistics brought a very interesting perspective! We also heard from a physicist considering both materials science and chemistry within his research! The conference ended with a description of what LANS is and an explanation, by me, of how the processes of interdisciplinarity can be utilised in STEM.  

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A key aspect of the conference was our panel “50 years since Stonewall: current and future difficulties for LGBTQ+ in STEM”, within which some interesting points were discussed. This included how intersectionality can be improved to bring more LGBTQ, STEM, black minority ethnics into our events. The most interesting question, however, was how we envision these events in 50 years as we then discussed hosting these events purely to network with the community and less for visibility as STEM and LGBTQ people.

The conference was honestly one of the highlights of my oSTEM experience. I put in a lot of effort and received such great rewards! Multiple members of staff were present at the event, including those that can enforce change in their departments – a very positive result! I hope that STEM, LGBTQ and YOU 2020 will be just as successful. 

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