Celebrating and supporting LGBTQIA+ minds in STEMM

The first Australian symposium showcasing the great LGBTQIA+ minds in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine) was hosted at The Florey on 5 July.

The event celebrated the International Day of LGBTQIA+ People in STEMM by featuring prominent LGBTQIA+ researchers discussing their research, achievements, challenges and personal stories of being senior role models and overcoming a lack of visibility.

Symposium co-organiser and head of The Florey’s presynaptic physiology laboratory Dr Sarah Gordon said that a lack of visibility of STEMM LGBTQIA+ role models could discourage people in this community from pursuing a science career.

“Everyone fits in science, and everyone has a place. From climate change to cures for childhood diseases to astrophysics, LGBTQIA+ researchers are making vital improvements to the way we live and to the health of our communities.”

“We are inspiring the next generation of LGBTQIA+ researchers by enabling them to see people like them leading the way and excelling in their fields,” said Dr Gordon.

This sentiment was echoed by Professor Steven Petrou, Director of The Florey, who said that our work, our science and our community is better when we recognise diversity and inclusion.

“The Florey was delighted to host this event and see our researchers collaborating with their peers from other institutes to hold the first national and second international event for STEMM professionals who identify as LGBTQIA+,”  said Professor Petrou.

The symposium received strong support from the scientific sector, with Dr Alan Finkel AO (Chief Scientist of Australia), Ms Anna-Maria Arabia (CEO, Australian Academy of Science) and Ms Kylie Walker (CEO, Science and Technology Australia) all having involvement.

The inaugural Scott Johnson Memorial Award was presented to Dr Mohammad Tana in recognition of his commitment to making lives and workplaces safer and more inclusive for LBGTQIA+ people in STEM. The award is named in remembrance of Scott Johnson, a brilliant mathematician and PhD student who was killed in a gay hate crime in Sydney in 1988.

At the symposium, QueersInScience and the Australian Academy of Science launched a call for applications from individuals who are passionate about advocating for the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people within STEMM organisations in their own state or territory.

Australian Academy of Science President, Professor John Shine AC, said LGBTQIA+ scientists and professionals in STEMM organisations were encouraged to apply for the opportunity to become a QueersInScience state champion.

“We particularly encourage expressions of interest from members who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, work outside the university sector or reside and/or work in a non-metropolitan area,” said Professor Shine.

Together the state champions will form a Steering Committee, which will work to determine the direction and goals for a national QueersInSciencenetwork.

To get involved as a state champion, submit an expression on interest by Sunday 18 August 2019.

The growth of QueersInScience has been made possible through funding from the Theo Murphy Initiative (Australia). The symposium is supported by a Victorian Government Pride Events and Festivals Grant, The Florey, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, and was organised by sector advocacy group QueersInScience.