Supporting our LGBTQ+ researchers: the Academy joins the Proud Science Alliance

The Academy is delighted to join the Proud Science Alliance, a collective of healthcare and life sciences sector LGBTQ+ networks working together to raise the bar on LGBTQ+ inclusion.

The Academy is committed to supporting all of its researchers to flourish in their careers. By formally connecting with the Proud Science Alliance, we provide a platform for future collaboration, open ourselves to advice on being more welcoming and inclusive for LGBTQ+ researchers, and commit to strengthening this agenda across medical science as a whole by working together to achieve more than we could individually.

We spoke to a number of our Fellows about their experiences of being LGBTQ+ in medical research and their reflections on the Academy joining the Proud Science Alliance.

Professor Peter Brocklehurst FMedSci is Director of Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit. University of Birmingham and has previously spoken to the Academy about his work-life balance for our #MedSciLife project:

“I think connecting the Academy to the Proud Science Alliance is a really important initiative.

“I wish we weren’t having this conversation. I wish it was absolutely immaterial what your sexuality was. But I’ve had people come to me through the Academy’s mentoring scheme, and the one thing they want to talk about is how they don’t feel comfortable coming out in their academic life. If that’s still happening, there is clearly still a problem.

“Take one example. Conferences are an important opportunity to showcase your research, and network with potential future collaborators. When you go to conferences and the social events around conferences, it’s interesting to find out how awkwardly heteronormative those environments can be.

“If you ask a LGBT researcher whether they have ever experienced discrimination, many of them will probably say no.

“But if you dig a bit deeper, you will find that there are situations, like these networking events, that are not allowing people to be themselves. Ask LGBT researchers: have you ever felt uncomfortable meeting people at a conference? Have you ever been nervous talking about your personal life? Have you ever been asked, where’s your husband, or where’s your wife?

“Those situations are deeply challenging. You have a split second to decide. Do you tell them your sexuality straight away? Do you address it head on? Change the topic? Lie? People can end up avoiding those situations entirely, and so lose out on important opportunities.

“Academia often creates a subtle but very disempowering environment where people feel uncomfortable, isolated and excluded. And that’s particularly challenging in a career where collaboration and team working is critical.

“Joining the Proud Science Alliance is an important first step for the Academy in better supporting LGBT researchers. We have to take every opportunity to ensure we have equal access, support and career progression. We have to have more overt LGBT role models. We have to ensure our policies encompass all protected characteristics. We have to allow people to be open and honest about themselves, and so allow people to flourish.”

Professor John Langdon FMedSci is Emeritus Professor of Maxillofacial Surgery, King’s College London. He comments:

“When I was a senior registrar in the 1970s my career was almost destroyed by homophobia at all levels in the unit where I worked and in the end I resigned with nowhere to go.

“Fortunately colleagues at another unit heard of my plight and rescued me. From then on I have always been open about my sexuality although I have never talked about it other than to answer any direct questions honestly. Since then I have taken my partner to all social events without either asking permission or receiving any negative comments. Having been president of several national and international societies over my career I am pleased to have flown the flag.

“During my own professional career I have experienced a time when gay relationships were illegal to a time when certainly the younger generation don’t seem to be in the least bit interested in anyone’s sexuality.”

Professor Graham Hart FMedSci is Dean of the UCL Faculty of Population Health Sciences. He adds:

“I’m delighted that the Academy has joined the Proud Science Alliance.  Biomedical science needs the full and enthusiastic participation of a diverse range of people to meet the challenges that we face, nationally and globally. LGBTQ+ people should be positively welcomed into the Academy as we often bring a different perspective to these challenges, and are able to demonstrate how inclusivity can help deliver better outcomes. Pride and confidence in yourself and your work is critical to making that contribution. We need LGBTQ+ colleagues to be warmly welcomed and feel comfortable at work.”

Photo credit Shaun Waldie

Our President, Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci, comments:

“I'm proud to be able to celebrate our LGBTQ+ Fellows today. Some of our colleagues have endured great burdens and succeeded regardless. By joining the Proud Science Alliance, I hope we can help create a more welcoming and supportive workplace for researchers coming through today.

“We’re keen to hear from more LGBTQ+ grant awardees and Fellows interested in shaping our work with the Proud Science Alliance going forward. We believe it’s important to include a range of perspectives in our work, and therefore would particularly like to hear from LGBTQ+ researchers who are female, who are from an ethnic minority, or who belong to other under-represented groups.”

Professor Dame Jessica Corner DBE FMedSci, one of two diversity champions on our Council, comments: 

“We know that two in three LGBTQ+ graduates feel they can no longer be open about their sexuality when they move from study into their first job. The work done by organisations such as the Proud Science Alliance is vital in making sure the scientific community embraces the full diversity of its researchers. As a modern Academy, we are constantly striving to be more inclusive, which is why we’re delighted to be able to formally announce our partnership with the Proud Science Alliance today.”

This is a staff picture from a pre-Pride event at the Academy in London with the Proud Science Alliance in 2019. We look forward to hosting in-person celebrations again in years to come.

Find out more about the Proud Science Alliance on their website:

Find out more about the Academy's ongoing work on equality and diversity, including our annual diversity report

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