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Q&A: Putting The Proud In Pride In STEM

IFLScience's very own Dr Alfredo Carpineti talks setting up the UK's largest LGBTQIA+ charity for people in STEM.

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LabX Media Group

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clockJun 24 2022, 13:24 UTC
Banner for the conversation between LabX Media Group and Dr Alfredo Carpineti
At the crossroads of science and activism with Dr Alfredo Carpineti. Image Credit: (c) IFLScience

Inclusion is incredibly important to LabX Media Group, and this Pride Month we have the unique opportunity to connect with IFLScience’s Dr Alfredo Carpineti, a founder of Pride in STEM, to learn about the organization and their efforts to create a platform for LGBTQIA+ individuals working in STEM.    

Pride in STEM is the largest UK-based charity that works to support and showcase LGBTQIA+ people in STEM. Pride in STEM does that by creating events where members of the community can present their work, by sharing resources, and by contributing to All-Party Parliamentary Groups in the UK.

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LMG: Tell us a little about your journey starting Pride in STEM 

Alfredo: Pride in STEM was not started with any grand plan to change science, but simply as a marching group for Pride in London between me, my husband Chris (IFLScience’s very own Senior Video Editor), and a few common friends. Back in 2016, that application required an email address to be public (so that others might join you during the march) and within a few weeks we began to receive emails asking for advice. It became clear that there was a real need for an organization in the UK that could at least help by sharing resources. 

Since then, we have grown a lot, bringing our expertise in communication and research to the many aspects of highlighting diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and justice. 

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LMG: What were some of your biggest challenges or obstacles?

Alfredo: The biggest challenges remain the unwillingness of public and private institutions to commit to improving science for everyone. No group working on behalf of a historically marginalized community is asking for the Moon on a platter. The number one request always boils down to stamping out harassment followed closely by providing support. 

There should be no reason why an institution would be unwilling to have strict and transparent anti-harassment policies – but you’d be surprised at how many resist such an obvious change. Statistics show that up to 50 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals are harassed in their STEM workplace, and at least 10 percent of cisgender and heterosexual people are harassed at work too. 

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Clearly, this is bigger than just the LGBTQ+ community. 

LMG: What are your thoughts on LGBTQ+ representation in science and how have things evolved over time?

Alfredo: Representation of LGBTQIA+ people in science remains poor, but it is improving. During Pride Month, LGBTQ+ History Month, and on LGBTQ+ STEM Day, we see most institutions posting pictures of Alan Turing, often Sally Ride, and if we are extremely lucky, neuroscientist and trans activist Ben Barres. While crucial historical figures, they are just a small slice of the true diversity of the community. 

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Institutions and the media have the power and the responsibility to fulfill the promise that science is indeed “for all humankind” and it is crucial to showcase the true variation we see in humanity. The Vulcans of Star Trek are right: infinite diversity in infinite combinations. 

Social media has allowed us to create communities in which we can be more visible, but to truly change the expectation of who is allowed to be a scientist will require changing society as a whole. That comes with support and with plans to actually demonstrate that everyone is a natural-born scientist.  

LMG: How could anyone get involved if they wanted to support Pride in STEM?

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Alfredo: We are always interested in people who want to volunteer some of their time to help us with our projects, from social media posts to blogs to running events, but something that everyone can do is to be an ally proactively. To read up and understand the experiences of the community, at a time when attacks have increased exponentially in the media, on the socials, and in real life.   

LMG: What achievement or milestone are you most proud of for Pride in STEM?

Alfredo: The creation of the International Day of LGBTQIA+ People in STEM, or LGBTQ+ STEM Day, celebrated annually on November 18, is probably my proudest achievement. Last year, it was celebrated on every continent, including Antarctica, with tens of thousands of social media posts. Museums, International labs, and even the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy posted about it on social media.  

LMG: What is next for the Pride in STEM?

Alfredo: Last year we received a substantial donation from a US firm and we plan to spend most of it on a hybrid conference to take place on LGBTQ+ STEM Day. 

We will also release a second series of our podcast in the next few months, highlighting different aspects of the community through an intersectional lens. 

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If you would like to find out more, visit Pride in STEM here.


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