Building a Data Infrastructure to Support LGBTQ Inclusion in STEM Fields

January 5, 2023
A silhouette of a student writing equations on a digital whiteboard
Data on sexual orientation and gender identity could help facilitate better LGBTQ inclusion in STEM fields.

Dr. Mario Suárez of the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at Utah State University and Dr. Jason Garvey of the University of Vermont have received a two-year grant for $461,837 from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that could impact the way universities attend to the needs of LGBTQ students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines across the United States.

Increasing inclusivity in STEM has implications for improving the STEM pipeline for K-12 and higher education, which could in turn help create a more diverse workforce. Suárez and Garvey seek to increase visibility and opportunities for LGBTQ students by building a data infrastructure for collecting and managing data on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) that will support the inclusion of LGBTQ students in STEM disciplines.

To accomplish this, the researchers and their team will have AAAS member institutions identify key decisionmakers in their school for SOGI data retrieval. They will then gather information on the policies and practices that exist concerning SOGI data collection, management, and use, as well as institutional leaders’ perceptions and experiences concerning this data. They hope to learn what institutional contexts, cultures, and politics influence the landscape for SOGI data collection, what challenges and barriers institutions encounter regarding the collection and management of SOGI data, and the role of SOGI data collection, management, and use in undergraduate STEM retention.

During the first phase of the project, the team will collect quantitative data, which will then be used to inform the qualitative phase of the study. The team aims to create a set of recommendations for universities to improve the collection of SOGI data and use it to inform more effective recruitment and retention of LGBTQ students..