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LGBT engineers share their inspiring experiences


By James Dacey

February in the UK is LGBT History Month, an annual event to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public. This year, three engineering organizations have got involved by producing a series of online videos profiling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) engineers. According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, InterEngineering and the engineering firm Mott MacDonald, the ‘What’s it Like?’ video series is designed to “inspire prospective engineers who are LGBT, as well as existing engineers who may wish to come out or transition at work”.

The video above features a medley of quotes from people profiled in the films, including Mark McBride-Wright, who is the chair and co-founder of InterEngineering and a gay man. A not-for-profit outfit, InterEngineering seeks a more inclusive profession by running panel discussions and providing career development opportunities for LGBT engineers. “As a profession, we are at the beginning of a journey creating an inclusive industry for everyone and I hope these videos will play a part in attracting LGBT+ students to the engineering industry,” says McBride-Wright.

Extended interviews with the contributors are available to view on the InterEngineering website. Having watched a few of them, I think one recurring message is that if you are able and passionate enough about engineering there’s no reason why you can’t forge a fulfilling and successful career (though challenges remain). I found the videos inspiring, though one gripe is that the same cheesy song runs throughout all of the profiles. It makes the videos feel repetitive and distracts from the stories themselves – which are engaging enough without the soundtrack. It’s a minor issue, though, so please don’t be put off checking them out.

Of course, the engineering profession is far from alone in facing challenges around diversity and inclusion – physics does so too. While most societies have come a long way since the days when women were banned from scientific labs and homosexuality was illegal, other more subtle types of discrimination are still around. Unconscious bias and “microaggressions” can still create barriers to access and restrict career opportunities for people in minority groups – including scientists who identify as LGBT+.

You can read more about these issues in the March 2016 issue Physics World, a special issue devoted to diversity challenges in physics. Find out how to access that issue in this blog post written by Physics World editor Matin Durrani.

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