Why LGBT STEM needs unions

Why LGBT STEM needs unions

Prospect warmly welcomed the first International Day of LGBT workers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in 2018. And we'll be marking it again on 5 July 2019.

We celebrated with staff at the National Physical Laboratory, an expert panel of members and our head of legal. Our discussion roamed through the history of LGBT inclusion, our developing understanding of gender identity and LGBT+ workplace rights. It was moving, educational and fun!

So, when Pride in STEM invited Prospect to become an official supporter, we signed up immediately. We wholeheartedly support the work of organisations like Pride in STEM that help to raise the visibility and status of LGBT+ workers.

But as we are, so far, the only trade union officially supporting this now annual event, we want to explain what unions can add to the mix.

Just this week, the Institute of Physics, Royal Astronomical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry published a new report on the experiences of LGBT+ workers in STEM.

It highlights the value of LGBT+ networks – both employer-based and wider – in “helping to alleviate isolation, exclusion and marginalisation”.

Prospect contributes to that through good practice in many of our workplaces and through our national LGBT network.

But the report also highlights the patchy implementation of workplace policies and practices and that LGBT+ people still suffer from exclusionary behaviour in STEM environments.

The TUC marked this year’s Pride month with a report into the shockingly high incidence of sexual harassment among LGBT workers.

These are hard examples of workplace discrimination: breaches of workers’ contractual and legal rights. They show that when it comes to asserting and enforcing your rights at work, you need a trade union.

We have the experience and the technical expertise to help you assert your rights.

We have the structures and legal status to negotiate better workplace policies and hold organisations accountable for their implementation.

And, when occasion demands, we have the independence to challenge your employer.

#MeTooSTEM and last year’s US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report into sexual harassment roundly criticised institutions for prioritising their own reputations over protecting victims.

Or the recent case where the entire LGBT+ staff committee of a UK university resigned claiming that the university had censored their objections to a transphobic speaker.

There will always be cases where the interests of LGBT workers, individually or collectively, conflict with the their employer’s interests. When you need support on your side, you need a trade union.

For us, our members’ interests are first and last.

But to fully represent the interests of the LGBT STEM community, we need your lived experiences to shape what we do.

Just as science thrives on diversity of thought, by diverse people who are free to express their differences, so do trade unions!

I would love you to celebrate LGBT STEM day by joining a trade union…

But more than that, I want you to be an active, visible member who shapes your union to be what you, and the LGBT STEM community, need.


Join us

LGBT+ rights at work

LGBT STEM day 2018 blog

Pride in STEM, including resources for your LGBT STEM day events

Jenny Andrew

Jenny Andrew


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