29 November 2021
A new cross-institutional network is to promote the exchange of LGBTQI* persons and allies. "Science and beλond" now started with a kick-off event, which on the one hand addressed the question of why sexism, homophobia and racism are still widespread in science; on the other hand, the focus was on measures to improve the situation, from which all people in science can benefit.
“Diversity improves science. Diverse groups publish a higher number of papers and receive more citations per paper than average,” said Pauline Gagnon, a former CERN employee and journalist in her introductory talk “What's wrong with me?”. Despite this fact, certain social groups are still structurally disadvantaged, excluded and discriminated against. Drawing on her own story, Gagnon analyzed the situation of women in science in general and the queer community in particular, emphasizing the need to transform the workplace into a safe place, supported by protected groups and networks: “What worked for me was fighting the isolation, joining the LGBT group at CERN and to remind myself that I am not the problem,” Gagnon said. Following on from this, the second part of the evening focused on a more informal get-together and networking. The participants went on a casual journey through the LGBTQI* world in the context of an online quiz. LGBTQI* is the abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer and Intersex.
Ten percent of the population define themselves as non-heterosexual
In order to create an awareness of why LGBTQI* networks are important and to be able to design the network in a needs-oriented way, the kick-off was preceded by two preparatory workshops. During these events, the participants collected ideas for the network and they were also introduced into research on the current situation of LGBTQI* people in the workplace. According to current studies, about ten percent of the population define themselves as non-heterosexual. However, many people who define themselves as queer or do not conform to heteronormative ideas conceal their sexual and gender identity in the workplace. This is because in the work environment, this identification can still be the basis for discrimination, for example in the form of social exclusion, discrimination, or innocent "well-intentioned" hurtful statements. These so-called microaggressions can be a burden and take a toll on mental and physical health.
A safe environment for exchange and opportunities for networking
This is where the network "Science and beλond" comes in: It wants to offer LGBTQI* people and allies at the science location Hamburg a safe environment for exchange and opportunities for networking. In this way, the initiators want to increase the visibility of those involved and at the same time raise awareness of the topic. “The goal is a natural, tolerant and accepting approach to all manifestations of diversity. No one should have to hide who they are. We need to create an organizational climate where someone’s gender identity or the gender of their partner are not a potential career threat”, says Eileen Schwanold, diversity manager in the clusters “CUI: Advanced Imaging of Matter” and “Quantum Universe”. The network is a joint initiative of the Clusters of Excellence, the Equal Opportunity Unit and the Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Natural Sciences at Universität Hamburg. The network is supported by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY).
So far, LGBTQI* networking at Hamburg universities exists exclusively at the student level. Networks for employees only exist at a few universities or research institutions throughout Germany, such as the EMBL. The new network aims to address all queer/LGBTQI* and supportive people, i. e. researchers and employees from administration and science management. Schwanold: “We understand Science and beλond as an inclusive exchange forum.”
Join the network
Diversity Managerin CUI and QU
Dr. Lars Vorberger
Equal Opportunity Officer, Equal Opportunity Unit