In June, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) held its annual conference. It was my first time attending and presenting at a virtual conference. While there was definitely more prep work required to ensure that my presentation went smoothly, it was a really wonderful experience. I attended some very informative sessions, and each offered a new learning opportunity.
LGBTQ+ Safe Zone Ally Training
Some of the most valuable sessions that I attended were the Safe Zone Ally Training’s offered by the ASEE LGBTQ+ Advocacy in STEM community. Their work is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation. Though virtual, the training’s were interactive and the facilitators did an amazing job in explaining the importance of raising awareness for LGBTQ+ inclusion in STEM and ways in which allies could help to foster a supportive environment.
Did you know that approximately 4.5% of Americans identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT)? As we consider our individual and collective roles in helping to increase diversity in STEM, our efforts to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to pursue a STEM education must include equal efforts to encourage a safe and inclusive community in college and career for all. This means paying attention to those who feel marginalized in STEM.
I encourage you to check out the resources that are available on their website, including a primer on pronouns and materials to help faculty create a more inclusive classroom. You can also apply to join their LGBTQ+ Advocacy in STEM Virtual Community of Practice. A list of current members, community benefits, and descriptions of their interactive ally training workshops can be found on the website.
Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM) is a non-profit professional association for LGBTQ+ people in STEM. SWE’s Vice President of Finance, Phil Thakadiyil, serves on the oSTEM Board of Directors, and we often see oSTEM members at SWE events and vice-versa. The organization has numerous student and professional chapters in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. for those wishing to become more involved in helping to create a safer and more supportive environment for all.
I will end with a quote from one of the handouts available from the website, 49 Ways to be an Ally:
“Responding to microaggressions and bias is one of the most important things you can do as an ally, yet it can be one of the most awkward and uncomfortable. Rest assured, most people have experienced that feeling of “freezing” in the moment. Your response does not have to be perfect, just authentic.”
 McCarthy, J. (June 27, 2019). Americans still greatly overestimate U.S. gay population. Gallop. Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/poll/259571/americans-greatly-overestimate-gay-population.aspx.