The University of Nottingham has been recognised by the Royal Society for its work to support LGBTQ+ people in STEM.
Led by senior research librarian Dr Beth Montague-Hellen, and developed with Dr Alex Bond, a senior curator at the Natural History Museum, the LGBTQ+ STEM initiative is a national project that has established a successful, first-of-its-kind network for LGBTQ+ people working in STEM fields. It has also has established the annual LGBTQ+ STEMinar conference.
LGBTQ+ STEM initiative has now been awarded the biennial Royal Society Athena Prize, which celebrates teams that have contributed to the advancement of diversity in STEM.
“LGBTQ+ people working in STEM are often told that science is impersonal, which can be code for ‘please, be quiet, no one cares about your personal life’,” said Beth Montague-Hellen. “But when you feel that you have to put energy into censoring yourself and you can’t talk about a part of who you are because you’re worried about how your colleagues will react, that’s restricting how much of yourself you can put into your work.
“Five years ago, no-one was talking about how LGBTQ+ people add to diversity in STEM fields. Thanks to LGBTQ+ STEM and the LGBTQ+ STEMinar, it’s become an important facet of this agenda. The work … has created a snowball effect helping researchers in these fields to see that being open about who they are they can help encourage a new generation into STEM fields.”
The Athena Prize is one of annual 25 medals and award winners that have been announced by the Royal Society, celebrating exceptional researchers and outstanding contributions to science across a wide array of fields.
President of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan, said: “The Royal Society’s medals and awards celebrate those researchers whose ground-breaking work has helped answer fundamental questions and advance our understanding of the world around us. They also champion those who have reinforced science’s place in society, whether through inspiring public engagement, improving our education system, or by making STEM careers more inclusive and rewarding.
“This year has highlighted how integral science is in our daily lives, and tackling the challenges we face, and it gives me great pleasure to congratulate all our winners and thank them for their work.”
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