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LGBTQ+ Contributions and Challenges in Medicine, Healthcare, and STEM

Image for From addressing discrimination in the workplace to advocating for inclusive healthcare practices, there's much we can do to support LGBTQ+ individuals within  STEM.

LGBT History Month 2024

UK LGBTQ+ History Month 2024 commemorates the past and present invaluable contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals to the field of medicine and healthcare. This year's theme, ‘Medicine - #UnderTheScope’, not only celebrates their achievements but also calls attention to the challenges they face in a world where hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community are on the rise. It prompts us to look deeper into their lived experiences and advocate for greater inclusivity and support.


A survey conducted by the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Association of LGBTQ+ Doctors and Dentists (GLADD) sheds light on the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ NHS staff. Shockingly, only 26% of heterosexual respondents recognise homophobia as a problem in their workplace, compared to 71% of LGBTQ+ respondents. This discrepancy underscores the need for increased awareness and support for LGBTQ+ people within the medical profession.


Discrimination against LGBTQ+ staff not only affects their well-being but also impacts the quality of care provided to patients. Studies by Stonewall reveal that a significant portion of LGBTQ+ individuals have witnessed or experienced discriminatory remarks from healthcare staff, leading some to avoid seeking treatment altogether. In particular, transgender patients,report unequal treatment, highlighting the urgent need for inclusive healthcare practices.


Health inequalities persist among LGBTQ+ individuals, including higher rates of mental illness and poorer healthcare experiences. Addressing these disparities requires a multifaceted approach that tackles discrimination and marginalisation at every level of healthcare provision.

Moreover, LGBTQ+ representation in STEM fields remains disproportionately low, with research from the Royal Society indicating a 20% underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ individuals. Recognising the importance of diversity in driving innovation is crucial to creating inclusive environments where all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, feel empowered to contribute their unique perspectives.


What can we do to support LGBTQ+ individuals in Medicine, Healthcare, and STEM?


The BMA calls for better training for doctors and medical students on inclusion in the workplace and at medical school. This includes addressing microaggressions and 'low' level behaviours that contribute to a hostile workplace culture, as well as providing LGBTQ+ inclusive leadership training targeted at senior levels for doctors and medical managers.


Increasing the visibility of LGBTQ+ role models and positive examples of inclusion is vital. Senior leaders across the medical profession should actively champion LGBTQ+ inclusion and challenge discrimination, while NHS organisations must demonstrate tangible actions to tackle prejudice and discrimination against LGBTQ+ staff and patients.


Improving and encouraging the use of feedback loops are crucial for fostering a more inclusive environment. This involves collecting systematic data on the experiences of LGBTQ+ staff and patients, implementing mechanisms for reporting incidents of discrimination, and holding organisations accountable for addressing bias and prejudice through comprehensive LGBTQ+ inclusive policies.


Additionally, being aware as an employer of the intersectional issues LGBTQ+ employees may face regarding their physical and mental health is paramount. LGBTQ+ individuals often experience compounded discrimination and marginalisation based on factors such as race, ethnicity, disability, and socioeconomic status. These intersecting identities can exacerbate health disparities and create unique challenges in accessing healthcare and navigating workplace environments.


Employers have a responsibility to create inclusive policies and practices that address the intersectional needs of LGBTQ+ employees. This includes providing resources and support for mental healthwellbeing, offering healthcare benefits that are sensitive to the diverse needs of LGBTQ+ individuals, and fostering a workplace culture that values diversity and prioritises the wellbeing of all employees.


By ensuring that LGBTQ+ employees feel supported and valued in the workplace, employers should not only promote a positive work environment but also set a precedent for the fair and equitable treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in society as a whole. This commitment to inclusivity and support is essential for creating workplaces where everyone can succeed  and reach their full potential.


By taking these proactive steps and committing to a culture of inclusivity and support, we can create environments where all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identitycan thrive and contribute to advancements in Medicine, Healthcare, and STEM.