A queer in any field, including engineering, science, and technology, faces obstacles daily. There are always articles exposing them by different journalists, an overwhelming outpour of experts’ research and testament from the employees they have worked with or are currently working with. These show a constant and clear bias against the LGBTQ+ community. This is not just the case in the private sector but also in the government sector and academia. A queer stays in STEM and always faces constant discrimination, isolation and confrontation in the workplace. This also directly affects their physical and mental health and how much progress they make in their careers.
For a queer person, a tech place has an unwelcoming and dangerous environment. They usually deal with discrimination, harassment and many other such issues. And it’s a fact that when queer people are in a toxic workplace, it harms their health, leading to the short life and many physical and mental health disorders due to stress. To be a queer, especially in STEM, is mentally and physically very dangerous. But, there is a solution to it. Witnessing discrimination at the workplace is common to many of us as it is rampant. So queer people can consider remote work in such cases. Although is the solution is not all perfect. People usually understand discrimination as something which is said or done intentionally abusive. But it is manifesting in team avoidance, passed promotions or any jokes.
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But still, there are people in the same community of STEM who were open-minded and accepting of the other person’s thoughts and ideas suddenly start ignoring them. So, it somewhere becomes very exhausting to be a part of such kind of an environment. Still, some people and organizations or companies respect these kinds of people and provide a supportive and safe workplace. At first, a company always flaunts their openness towards the LGBTQ community and their all spiel about gender diversity, but if an office earlier had no non-binary, gay, queer, pansexual, lesbian or asexual people working for them, then a new queer person won’t know how they are going to be treated or how people are going to react on their presence in the workplace. Until they experience it by themselves, they will never know about it.
We mostly have a notion that our teams would generally have people who are very empathetic, compassionate. These people would be very open-minded and won’t discriminate or harass people. But the thing is that it is far from reality. Most of us who have worked in teams have faced some discrimination or harassment, and all of us combined makeup only about 4 per cent of the total population. The remote work type takes care of queer people by letting them have space and reducing the friction which can happen when coming in the proximity of other people. Certain facets of office culture can be a bit heteronormative, and remote work can be a real lifesaver. Out bounded people like us can avoid encounters with the harsh bigots and heteronormative exposure pressures, leading to a term known as othering. But as you can see, it doesn’t look like a good solution.
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There can be a possibility for things to turn sour when those workers switch to remote work, especially for companies with fickle codes of conduct to prevent discrimination and harassment. Jennifer Liu wrote an article for CNBC highlighting the matter – A survey was conducted in tech companies (member of the group research project) for the remote working people who stated that the amount of hostility and harassment cases via the online mode went up in this corona pandemic. Some stated that the marginalized workers, like a female, young and non-binary employees, faced even more pressure from the time they switched to remote working, which shows that the situations have worsened. The more problematic thing is there is no foresightedness on what remote working would eventually lead to in the future.
As we can see, there can be issues associated with remote work for queer in STEM, but there are benefits linked to it as queer perspectives and diversity are essential inside and outside the office boundaries. The goal is not to have queer people in the office just for diversity, shove them into remote work, and have a so-called perfect office. The office can provide the necessary support, but it can still be dangerous and exhausting for queer people in STEM, and remote work allows them to fight the battles in their ways. In addition, factors such as position fit for employment, city or country where the position is available has cultural and legal issues from our sexual orientation. So tech careers in places such as New York, Amsterdam or Silicon Valley can have decent support for us to be a part of the system, and we won’t have to leave the safety and comfort of our homes.