Inclusion across all sectors should be something not only strived for but required. In a disruptive innovative sector like STEM, anything less will threaten to strangle breakthroughs and growth.
Alfredo Carpineti, founder of charitable trust Pride in STEM, stresses the importance of inclusion in the workplace: “I believe we need an inclusive and intersectional revolution, making sure that we don’t just include people, but that they belong in an organisation at every level, and they can prosper, and they want to stay there, and if they have an issue that the issue is taken seriously and not dismissed."
”Pride Month is a great opportunity to take pause and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ role models who are not only responsible for enriching and opening the STEM sector, but also inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. Without them, the sector would not be as successful as it is today. Although it would be impossible to mention them all here, we have highlighted a few.
When Jack Andraka was 14 years old, he invented an inexpensive and fast method to detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages. He won the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for discovering this novel, non-invasive test.The device was built using inexpensive materials sensitive to mesothelin, a protein found in elevated levels in people with pancreatic cancer. When dipped in blood or urine, the mesothelin adheres to these antibodies and becomes detectable.
Since then, not only has Jack continued his passion to use micro- and nanoengineering to solve environmental and public health problemsk, but he is also a loud advocate for changing the status quo and increasing diversity in STEM. Andraka argues that ‘What we have seen a lot is that when you have more diversity, you have better outcomes, and you have more innovative solutions… When you don’t think about these things, we just don’t have those perspectives, because science is politics.’On being a LGBTQ+ role model in STEM, Jack says, “I’m openly gay and one of my biggest hopes is that I can help inspire other LGBT youth to get involved in STEM. I didn’t have many role models [who are gay scientists] besides Alan Turing.
Sally was most famous for becoming the first American women in space in 1983 but has since been recognised as the earliest space traveller to have been recognised as LGBT+.
Following this, Ride became Professor of Physics at the University of California where she initiated several programmes dedicated to fostering a passion for STEM education among girls. Including co-founding Sally Ride Science to inspire young people and to promote STEM literacy.She also came up with the idea for NASA's EarthKAM project. EarthKAM allows school students to take pictures of Earth using a camera on the International Space Station.
When asked whether she saw herself as a role model, Sally said: “I never went into physics or the astronaut corps to become a role model. But after my first flight, it became clear to me that I was one. And I began to understand the importance of that to people. You can’t be what you can’t see.
Tim was named CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of tech giant Apple following Steve Jobs’ resignation in 2011. In 2014 he became the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to publicly come out as gay. When asked why decided to go public, Cook said “… if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it's worth the trade-off with my own privacy."
Under Tim’s leadership Apple has continued its legacy of success and has gone from strength to strength, leading the way in much of the technological innovation in the sector. It has now become the the first company to reach $3 trillion market value, a figure greater than the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the UK.
Cook was recently named as one of the most influential people of 2022 by TIME magazine which described him as ‘an exemplar of moral leadership and technological imagination.’
Nergis Mavalvala was part of a team of scientists who first observed gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes. Her work in the detection of gravitational waves and in quantum measurement science has revolutionised the way we understand the universe.
Nergis completed a doctorate in astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) joined the faculty and was the first woman to be named Dean of Sciences there in 2020. Mavalvala was the recipient of a MacArthur genius award in 2010 and named the LGBTQ Scientist of the Year in 2014.
Describing herself as an “out, queer person of colour” Mavalvala is an openly gay Pakistani American. She is a strong advocate LGBTQIA+ people in STEM and challenges racial and social injustice within the sciences.Personally, Nergis feels lucky to have had positive experiences and believes that: “Anybody should be able to succeed — whether you’re a woman, a religious minority or whether you’re gay. It just doesn’t matter. Anybody should be able to do those things, and I am proof of that because I am all of those things.
”Want to find out more about influential LGBT+ role models in STEM? Read Lynn Conway’s inspirational story here.
Want to work with Harnham to build a diverse, inclusive team? Get in contact right here.