10 steps towards LGBTQIA+ equality: An action guide for STEM environments

As part of the LGBTQIA+ pride month, COST Action CA18108 “Quantum Gravity Phenomenology in the Multimessenger Approach” reiterates its commitment and support for diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and, in particular, LGBTQIA+ equality. 

Implementation of tangible measures and direct actions is crucial to achieve equality. In this article, we present a summarised guide with 10 steps towards LGBTQIA+ equality in research centres and in STEM environments. It is based on a more complete document prepared by the non-profit association PRISMA:


It is separated into three main domains of action: education, protection and visibility.


1.-Training STEM staff on LGBTQIA+ topics

Discriminatory actions can occur even without a conscious ill-intent due to a lack of proper training of the STEM staff, so a proper education is essential as a preventative tool.

  • For this reason, staff involved in human resources management should receive mandatory, specialised training in conformity to their role.This could be done through internal programs and or by workshops offered by external organisations.
  • Other staff could be targeted by a more flexible or informal approach, like informative videos, pamphlets or practical workshops, which in any case should comply with some minimum requirements:

– Cite trustworthy sources,

– Be accessible,

– Divide groups, like junior and senior staffs to stimulate a safe environment and prevent any backslash,

– Frequent updates.

2.- Supporting LGBTQIA+ visibility and equality in outreach actions

Discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people is already present in formative years, compromising their chances of academic success, and consequently, their chances of entering the STEM field.  Promoting non-discrimination during outreach actions is vital in achieving more diversity in STEM. Some specific actions include:

  • Being open to LGBTIQA+-related research topics and having staff with diversity awareness training
  • Small gestures of support within education environments, such as wearing pin badges with the LGBTQIA+ flag, or raising awareness of significant figures in the field.
  • Promoting workshops or partnerships with secondary teaching centres that actively support and are committed to non-discrimination


3.-Establishing safe channels that can be used to report aggression, discrimination and harassment

Organisation-specific anti-harassment protocols should include a LGBTQIA+ perspective. Some requirements are:

  • A board with specific training on action methods and particularities of LGBTQIA+ discrimination should officially investigate all complaints.
  • Develop an internal procedure, including repercussion of actions and protection of the victim.
  • Implement a safe reporting channel: confidential, fast and easy access, which immediately begins internal proceedings.
  • Active and regular communication to all members that these channels and protocols exist.

4.-Ensure equal opportunities for trans and gender nonconforming individuals in recruitment and selection processes

Discrimination against trans individuals during recruitment processes occurs when administrative processes do not consider the existence of trans people or non-binary people or as a result of  biases recruiters or panels may have during the interview process. These are some action to combat this form of discrimination:

  • Educating the human resources staff and the hiring committees in this field with the aim of curbing subconscious biases and creating equal safe spaces.
  • Eliminate gendered dress codes and preconceived notions of gender expression.
  • Inclusivity in internal protocols and procedures, for instance introducing oneself with name and pronouns.
  • Highlighting equality actions and policies adopted by the centre or business in job advertisements
  • Introducing additional evaluation methods to interviews which help generate a welcoming and positive environment during the interview.

5.-Establish protocols and guidelines to handle the transitioning process for trans professionals in the workplace

A transitioning protocol for trans professionals should be created and in place before the situation arises and it should include:

  • The administrative process for the person starting their transition.
  • The process for informing key staff members that need to be aware of the transition.
  • General instructions for staff members on how to behave when a colleague is transitioning.
  • Communicating to the entire organisation that such protocols exist.

6.-Avoiding binary gender classification systems

Binary gender classifications exclude many realities, especially for non-binary people. Some everyday examples in which binary classification systems can be avoided include:

  • Inclusive bathroom facilities, i.e. advertised for all genders.
  • Forms. Whenever a gender field must be included in the form, the recommended options are: (i) woman (ii) man (iii) non-binary and (iv) prefer not to say
  • Including pronouns (she/he/they) in everyday communication, i.e. on ID cards, visitor cards, conference badges, email signatures and when first meeting someone.

7.-Rejecting pseudoscientific discourse used to discriminate the LGBTQIA+ community

STEM centers must actively fight pseudoscience, distorted scientific findings and discriminatory discourses, since these have been used to carry out or justify practices that infringe on the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.

Specific actions include: 

  • Refusing funding or authorisation for research lines that seek to debate basic rights or already scientifically backed realities.
  • It is also recommended to avoid debates that question basic human rights, since those could be seen as a subject of opinion.
  • Complaints regarding discourses that question the rights of any collective should be taken seriously and a board should be appointed to take action to stop it.


8.-Showcasing LGBTQIA+ role models in STEM, as well as institutional support for the community

LGBTQIA+ role models in STEM help other LGBTQIA+ people with an interest in the field to feel represented and to see that it is possible to be an LGBTQIA+ scientist or technologist. Having role models can also help fight stereotypes.

There exist two complementary ways to showcase role models:

  • Using historical and prestigious scientists and technologists, discussing their contributions in educational forums or creating specific materials.
  • Creating role models that are the closest possible to our everyday reality, for instance highlighting the contributions and experiences of LGBTQIA+ people in forums, round tables or interviews. However, it is essential that we respect people’s privacy and guarantee that they will be protected after being put into the spotlight.

It is also recommended that organisations show public support to the LGBTQIA+ community via targeted campaigns but also in job offers, in codes of conduct and regulations and on official websites.

9.-Maintaining a feminist and intersectional perspective throughout all phases of this framework

Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to gender identity, sexual/affective orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, social class, physical ability or attributes, and religious or ethical values system. These realities often intersect, leading to multiple or simultaneous forms of discrimination or oppression.

  • We must avoid fostering inequality within the LGBTQIA+ collective itself, for instance, avoiding visibility campaigns that are disproportionately skewed towards some realities over others.
  • Besides, gender and LGBTQIA+ equality policies in our institutions should be given the resources they need and always work in close collaboration.

10.-Promoting research topics within STEM that intersect with the LGBTQIA+ community, through diverse work teams

Several disciplines like medicine, anthropology and biology have found gaps in research investigations and biassed interpretations of the results due to the lack of diversity in the approaches and from the perspective of only one reality. In that direction, research proposals should address the extent to which LGBTQIA+ issues and necessities are taken into account (similarly to how it is often required to address the gender dimension of a research proposal).

Also, a diverse science can be promoted by creating socially diverse teams, which are more creative, able to anticipate contradicting viewpoints, favour and foster innovation, producing higher quality science.


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