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LGBQ Students Are Dropping Out of STEM Studies, Data Reveals

STEM faces another diversity problem.

Science has a diversity problem, and it’s not going away. Over the past few years, it’s been well-documented that women and people of color face numerous obstacles to success in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, known collectively as STEM. But according to new data from Montana State University, LGBQ students are also shying away from pursuing careers in STEM, even after they’ve already enrolled in STEM majors at college.

In a study published in Science Advances on Wednesday, Bryce E. Hughes analyzed a longitudinal data set of survey responses from 4,162 STEM-aspiring college students at 78 different institutions across the United States. The Higher Education Research Institute, which provided the data, gave initial surveys to freshman students in 2011 and followed up with final surveys in 2015 to see if they were still STEM majors by their fourth year of college.

Hughes found that LGBQ students are more likely to drop STEM majors than their heterosexual peers. While 71.1 percent of the heterosexual students surveyed were still enrolled in STEM courses by their fourth year of college, only 63.8 percent of sexual minority students remained in STEM. After accounting for compounding variables, Hughes found that gay, lesbian, queer, and bisexual students were 9.54 percent less likely to persist through four years of STEM studies. This means that even compared to students who are similarly positioned to succeed, sexual minority status students drop out of STEM fields at a higher rate.

These results, Hughes says, are the consequence of an unwelcoming climate towards sexual minorities in STEM. “One study I reviewed talked about the experiences of LGB faculty in the sciences and engineering, who described the environment similar to the former ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy in the military,” he tells Inverse.

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Hughes posits that this gap is in part present because of some deeply held tenets in STEM culture. In science, objectivity is a paramount virtue; thus, many scientists don’t see the value in bringing diverse identities and perspectives to the table. After all, by following the scientific method, anyone should be able to do science well regardless of their background.

Hughes says this is a completely backwards notion.

“What this perception fails to account for are the ways our experiences shape the research problems we are drawn to, or the questions we think are important to ask,” Hughes says. “In addition, people who have had different experiences may define the same social problem in different ways, thus determining different solutions to the same problem.”

The cavalier attitude towards objectivity belies studies cited by Hughes that further prove that diverse viewpoints boost creativity and innovation in STEM teams. “Studies like these help dispel the erroneous argument that diversifying STEM means lowering standards,” Hughes says.

This line of thought is resilient because people in the science community are often reticent to discuss social issues. “Great strides have been made in the arts, humanities, and social sciences to bring LGBQ voices and lives into the curriculum as a way to improve the climate, but the culture within STEM remains resistant to discussions of inequality,” the study says.

If we want to make STEM fields more inclusive, they are going to need a real culture change, including more visibility among faculty, according to Hughes.

“Obviously, if we retain students who go on to graduate school we will also see more LGBQ faculty,” Hughes says. “But providing a supportive, welcoming environment in which faculty feel they can be open would go a long way toward this goal.”

Abstract: Using a national longitudinal survey data set from the Higher Education Research Institute, this study tested whether students who identified as a sexual minority (for example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer) were more or less likely to persist after 4 years in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, as opposed to switching to a non-STEM program, compared to their heterosexual peers. A multilevel regression model controlling for various experiences and characteristics previously determined to predict retention in STEM demonstrated that, net of these variables, sexual minority students were 8% less likely to be retained in STEM compared to switching into a non-STEM program. Despite this finding, sexual minority STEM students were more likely to report participating in undergraduate research programs, and the gender disparity in STEM retention appears to be reversed for sexual minority.

Steve Irwin: He Gave Attention to One of Nature's Saltiest Big Boys

The endangered saltwater crocodile received a helping hand from Irwin.

The late icon of conservation Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin would have been 57 years old on Friday, and Google chose the day to mark his extraordinary life with a touching Google Doodle slideshow. Irwin was deeply involved with animals, reptiles especially, from an early age, as his parents ran a reptile park when was a child in Australia.

Steve Irwin Is Still Protecting Animals Worldwide, 13 Years After His Death

The Crocodile Hunter's legacy lives on in thousands of acres of protected land.

In 2004, the late conservationist Steve Irwin caught a lot of heat for feeding a crocodile while simultaneously holding his baby. The incident captured his lifelong approach to animal conservation, which began with his animal-filled childhood and continues even after his death with the conservationist legacy he left behind. Irwin’s 57th birthday would have been on Friday, and he was commemorated with a front-page Google Doodle.

Steve Irwin: How He Rose to Fame as the Crocodile Hunter

Google paid tribute to the star.

Google commemorated the life of Steve Irwin on Friday with a homepage doodle on what would have been the Australian’s 57th birthday. Irwin became a household name through his animal activism and television appearances, first launching onto screens of Animal Planet viewers with his show The Crocodile Hunter.

Irwin was born in the Essendon near Melbourne in 1962 to parents Lyn and Bob Irwin. His parents famously gave him an 11-foot scrub python for his 6th birthday which he named Fred. The young Steve learned a lot from his parents about animals, and they laid the foundations for Beerwah Reptile Park when they bought some land in 1970. Steve learned to wrestle crocodiles from the age of 9, and helped manage the family-owned park. The park was renamed Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park, and in 1990, it was renamed Australia Zoo — the same year Steve met producer John Stainton. He met his future wife, Oregonian Terri Raines, when she was visiting the park the following year. Their croc-filled honeymoon in 1992 formed the first episode of The Crocodile Hunter.

Where to Get Every Game of Thrones Season on Blu-Ray and 4K Blu-Ray

Winter, uh, we mean the final season of this show is coming.

Where were you when Game Of Thrones first premiered on HBO in the summer of 2011? I was interning at a comedy website in New York, so naturally I was surrounded by the biggest nerds you have ever seen in your life, so naturally we all got together to watch the show together on Sunday nights. Wild to think that in the eight years prior, Ned Stark is long dead, Arya is now the most feared assassin in Westeros, and Varys… well, he’s still a real dick.

'You' Season 2: Netflix Release Date, Spoilers, Cast, Trailer, and Theories

Your latest Netflix obsession could be coming back soon.

It’s been over a month since Lifetime’s You made the jump to Netflix and became an overnight sensation. We’re already as obsessed with this series as Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) was over Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail), and we can barely wait for the You Season 2 release date.

Thankfully, there’s already a lot of info out there about You Season 2, including a release date window, plot details, returning cast members, and a few new confirmed characters. Here’s everything you need to know, along with a bit of speculation.