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LGBTQ+ experiences in STEM: A systematic literature review

Diversity and representation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has lagged behind other fields, especially representation of those with different ethnicities and races. Our understanding of representation, experiences, and retention of LGBTQ+ individuals in STEM fields is lacking. We examined the literature to document the extent of research on LGBTQ+ people in STEM contexts (both educational and career), identify the major themes in this research, and make suggestions for future research. Paper selection for the literature review was conducted across three databases. Search terms included words associated with LGBTQ+ and STEM terms. After filtering this resulted in a final count of 128 articles. Articles were then reviewed and data was collected based on categories determined a priori. To date, 39 articles were reviewed; 14 articles did not meet the inclusion criteria. Of the remaining 25 articles, 13 contained quantitative data and 9 were qualitative. The majority of the research has focused on experiences of LGBTQ+ in STEM fields, while the remaining articles focused on attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals or representation within the field. Qualitative themes that emerged from the papers consisted of concern about career opportunities, STEM climate/acceptance, health/wellness, and representation. Our findings suggest that much of the historical structures within STEM programs/professions continues to negatively impact LGBTQ+ individuals. Future research on this topic should examine what interventions improve climate in STEM and should try to incorporate intersectionality of identities to examine experiences across more than LGBTQ+ identities.

Jordan Adadevoh '22
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