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. This is according to research from the University of Exeter and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, which identified a new STEM gap based on sexual orientation as it discovered that gay men are 12% less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree in STEM than men in heterosexual relationships.
Until recently, 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.
The study – “Turing’s children: Representation of sexual minorities in STEM” – was accepted for publication in PLOS ONE.
The study used data from American Community Surveys for 2009-18, involving over 140,000 men and women in same-sex relationships, and almost 11 million men and women in different-sex couples.
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%.
- gay male representation in STEM was “systematically and positively associated with female representation” in the same fields.
According to Dr. Dario Sansone, co-author and lecturer in economics at the University of Exeter’s Business School: “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.”
The authors hope the research will help to “start to address the dire need for statistics on sexual and gender minorities in STEM”.