Men in same-sex relationships are significantly less likely to have a degree in a Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subject than their heterosexual male peers, according to research.
Until now, studies have focused largely on the gender gap in Stem, where women are still hugely underrepresented in higher education and make up less than a quarter of the Stem workforce in the UK.
A study by researchers at the University of Exeter and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, has identified a new Stem gap based on sexual orientation, having discovered that gay men are 12% less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree in Stem than men in heterosexual relationships.
The study found that the Stem sexual orientation gap for men was larger than the gap between white and black men (4%), but smaller than the gender gap, which is 21%. There was no parallel gap between women in same-sex couples and those in heterosexual relationships.
The study also found that gay male representation in Stem was “systematically and positively associated with female representation” in the same fields.
The study’s authors say they hope their research will help to “start to address the dire need for statistics on sexual and gender minorities in Stem”.
The study says that despite legislative and institutional progress for LGBTQ people, the workplace for LGBTQ scientists is “still far from welcoming”, but it is not just about achieving equity.
“Addressing these gaps could increase efficiency by improving group decision-making, company performance and the quality of scientific work.” said Dr Dario Sansone, a co-author and lecturer in economics at the University of Exeter’s Business School.
The peer-reviewed study, entitled Turing’s Children: representation of sexual minorities in Stem, is published in the Plos One journal. Its findings are based on American Community Surveys for 2009-18, involving more than 140,000 men and women in same-sex relationships and almost 11 million men and women in different-sex couples.
Sansone said: “These patterns are highly suggestive that the mechanisms underlying the very large gender gap in Stem fields such as heteropatriarchy, implicit and explicit bias, sexual harassment, unequal access to funding and fewer speaking invitations are related to the factors driving the gap in Stem fields between gay men and heterosexual men.”