In recognition of LGBTQ+ History Month, we're celebrating some of the world’s most influential LGBTQ+ scientists.
When we feel we belong at work, we’re more likely to succeed.
Research from McKinsey shows that when employees feel very included in their organisations, they’re more than 3 times more likely to be engaged and committed to their work.
Feeling represented at work is key to a sense of belonging, and for LGBTQ+ individuals both within and aspiring to join the STEM workforce, the right role models can make all the difference.
Research shows that over 40% of LGBTQ+ STEM individuals aren't 'out' at work, and that LGBTQ people are 20% less represented in STEM fields than expected. What’s more, despite LGBTQ+ men achieving high grades in STEM subjects and progressing onto undergraduate study, they’re significantly less likely than their peers to graduate with a STEM degree.
The criticality of diversity in STEM, and particularly leadership has been long-standing. The first step to providing a foundation for improved diversity is improving visibility for LGBTQ+ in STEM. Heightened visibility helps bring role models to the forefront and paves the way to both unravelling systemic disadvantages, and opening the door to inspiring new perspectives, innovations, and ideas that help accelerate development.
While LGBTQ+ scientists in history have had a formative role in the wider scientific field, in this article, we take a closer look at the achievements and careers of 4 modern famous LGBTQ+ scientists who despite the challenges, succeeded and continue to contribute to the STEM field today.
1. Dr. Edith Perez
Dr. Perez has led pioneering research into breast cancer for the past 25 years. From overseeing numerous clinical trials, developing novel treatments for cancer, and furthering the understanding of both the influence of genetics and the potential of the immune system to combat cancer, Dr. Perez has had a formative influence in breast cancer treatment.
Currently, Dr. Perez is serving as a Mayo Clinic professor, and is developing a range of clinical trials exploring personalised therapies for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.
Additionally, Dr. Perez is also leading studies to evaluate the role genes play across the development and treatment of cancer.
Watch the video below to hear from the oncology pioneer herself, as she delves into what the future of breast cancer care holds for patients:
2. Jack Andraka
After inventing a new novel detection test for cancer at just 15 years of age, Jack’s career in epidemiology took off with a strong start.
Influenced by his father’s work with nanotubes, and his own passion for science, Jack created a novel filter-paper and nanotube-based sensor that detects pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers in just five (5) minutes.
Andraka’s invention won him the grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2021, and since then, he’s had a strong public presence in the science and oncological spheres.
While Andraka’s test is a preliminary investigation into a specific method and hasn’t resulted in a patent, it has paved the way for more in-depth research on alternative bio-markers.
Meanwhile, Jack is pursuing his Master's degree at Stanford University where he’s focusing on machine learning, big data, epidemiology, and optimisation. His next goal is to find a way to harness nanobots in cell alteration.
You can watch Jack's TED talk below:
3. Lynn Conway
As the inventor of generalised dynamic instruction handling, a key process used by modern computer processors to improve performance, Lynn Conway has played an instrumental role in the technological revolution.
While working at MIT, IBM, Xerox, and DARPA, Conway pioneered new scalable design rules that simplified chip design and design tools, enabling efficiency across computing.
However, as a trans woman, her career was not without its challenges. After informing IBM in 1968 of her intention to transition, she faced exclusion and lost her job at the company.
This was a mistake that would not be formally acknowledged by IBM until 2020, by which time Lynn has gone down in history as a tech pioneer.
After losing her role at IBM, Conway secured work as a contract programmer and by 1973 was working in a senior position at Xerox, MIT, and DARPA where her work on VLSI microchip design changed the industry forever
Watch the video to hear from the tech revolutionary herself:
4. Dr Tim Holmes
After co-founding Acquity Intelligence in 2011, Dr Tim Holmes’ career has seen him serve companies as diverse as P&G, Coca-Cola, The Guardian, and the Walt Disney Company.
While Dr. Tim Holmes is an acclaimed neuroscientist, he’s taken a non-traditional route into commercialism, where he contributes his scientific expertise around behavioural influence and design optimisation.
As a frequent collaborator with the Royal Holloway University of London, Dr. Holmes is still playing a strong role in neurological research, or more specifically, eye-tracking software. His current research is delving into the cognitions behind ‘neuro-marketing,’ where the eyes and movements of consumers are used to infer a person’s thoughts and intentions without reliance on self-report.
You can learn more about Dr Holmes' work in this video:
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