The retention rate of students in STEM is affect by a variety of factors, including socioeconomic status, gender, sex, race, and ethnicity. Retention of students in STEM who are of a sexual minority has not been closely investigated, but is crucial to understand how we can enhance outreach and diversity in STEM. 

The article “Coming Out in STEM: Factors affecting retention of sexual minority STEM students” by Bryce Hughes (2018; Science Advances) investigates retention of LGBQ and heterosexual students in STEM. They compared the number of students in STEM during their first year in college and again during their 4th year, and had more than 4,000 students surveyed. They found the retention rate of heterosexual students was 71.1%, while for sexual minority students this dropped to 63.8%. Breaking down the retention rate through interaction terms (the relationship between multiple variables) using sex and sexual minority status demonstrated the retention rate in sexual minority men (0.45) was lower than for heterosexual men (0.54). Interestingly, the retention rate for heterosexual women (0.32) increased when they identified as a sexual minority (0.39). They also investigated undergraduate research participation, which is one key way to retain undergraduates in STEM. Interestingly, sexual minority students were more likely (by 10%) to participate in undergraduate research than heterosexual peers. Overall, this study demonstrates the need for increasing LGBQ retention in STEM.

A few drawbacks with this study is the research did not include the Trans community when determining retention rate, and all sexual minorities are grouped together. Additionally, the disciplines within STEM might have a large variance in retention rate (e.g. engineering vs. biology). Overall this paper demonstrates the need for outreach and inclusion programming in STEM to increase the retention rate of LGBQ students. 



Citation:

Bryce E. Hughes, Coming out in STEM: Factors affecting retention of sexual minority STEM students, in Science Advances. 14 Mar 2018. Vol. 4, no. 3, eaao6373. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao6373