We’re very happy to announce that a new paper from the Queer in STEM project has just been published online at The Journal of Homosexuality today. Led by Allison Mattheis and Daniel Cruz-Ramírez De Arellano, this paper analyzes open-response questionnaires and one-on-one interviews with almost 150 participants in our 2013 online survey of queer STEM professionals, who volunteered to talk about their career experiences in more detail than we could possibly manage in an online survey form.
The large volume of questionnaire responses and interview transcripts participants provided are the basis for an in-depth grounded theory analysis. In grounded theory, researchers systematically read and annotate a large body of text to identify recurrent themes and connecting ideas from participants’ experiences. In this case, the collective picture of LGBTQ-identified professionals working in STEM suggested three interrelated processes of identity establishment, which we categorize as defining an individual queer identity (e.g., as lesbian and cisgender), forming a personal STEM identity (e.g., as an electrical engineer), and navigating queer identity at work in STEM (e.g., whether or not to keep a photo of a same-sex partner at one’s desk). These aren’t a linear progression, and there was no uniform way in which they occurred — but many participants described all three of these processes working together over their careers.
Here’s the formal abstract for the paper.
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are often stereotyped as spaces in which personal iden- tity is subsumed in the pursuit of a single-minded focus on objective scientific truths, and correspondingly rigid expecta- tions of gender and sexuality are widespread. This paper describes findings from a grounded theory inquiry of how queer individuals working in STEM fields develop and navigate personal and professional identities. Through our analysis, we identified three distinct but related processes of Defining a queer gender and/or sexual identity, Forming an identity as a STEM professional, and Navigating identities at work. We found that heteronormative assumptions frequently silence conversations about gender and sexuality in STEM workplaces and result in complicated negotiations of self for queer profes- sionals. This analysis of the personal accounts of queer stu- dents, faculty, and staff in STEM reveals unique processes of identity negotiation and elucidates how different social posi- tioning creates challenges and opportunities for inclusivity.