The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Science and Technical Proffessionals (NOGLSTP) is a group of scientists/technical proffessionals/science advocates who are either GLBT or GLBT friendly. I’ve had the opportunity to interview Barbara Belmont, the treasurer of the organizations. Here is a portion, with more to come:
Skeptigay: Thank you for taking the time to do an email interview with me. Barbara, please tell me a little about you personally. How did you first hear about NOGLSTP?
Barbara Belmont: I saw a letter to the editor of Science magazine from a grass-roots group identifying themselves as NOLGS — National Organization of Lesbian and Gay Scientists. That was in 1980, and I hadn’t yet realized I was a
lesbian. After I came out a short time later, I remembered that letter, and started looking for the gay scientists. I found them locally, in the form of Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Scientists. Turns out some of the LAGLS organizers were involved with NOLGS. NOLGS became NOGLS, then NOGLSTP.
SG: How would you describe NOGLSTP to a person on the street?
BB: NOGLSTP is a professional society for queer scientists and engineers with, the following goals: explain queer issues to scientists, explain science, to the queer community, promote workplace equality and diversity
inclusion, promote professional networking among our members, and provide, positive role models.
SG: Most people think scientists are pretty liberal, but your goals, found
at http://www.noglstp.org/?page_id=3 seem to suggest that there is a lot of
homophobia in science and technical professions.
BB: While it’s been demonstrated that most educated people are more politically liberal than uneducated people, it’s important to emphasize that scientists and engineers represent all facets of political leanings. In addition, most of us techno-workers are surrounded by non-technical people in the workplace. So it’s not necessarily our peers who are
homophobic. It’s more likely that our peers value us for our competence and feel that our queerness is none of their business. Even so, are goals are about promoting corporate cultures of acceptance (or at least tolerance), inclusion, and non-discrimination.
When NOGLSTP was founded in the 1980’s, LGBT people were afraid to come out in academia for fear of being passed over for tenure or grants. LGBT people in industry could be denied security clearances (and therefore access to information required to get their job done) just for being queer. Very few companies had even heard of equal opportunity inclusion for LGBT people, let alone considered openly welcoming them. Most LGBT scientists or engineers thought they were “the only ones”. NOGLSTP’s goals were formulated around addressing these issues.
Now, these issues were not always caused by homophobic peers. They were a reflection of society and cultural mores at the time, as well as attitudes of people in charge — management, grant administrators, shareholders, etc.
Over the years, corporate management of most engineering companies have bought into the idea that diversity in staffing is a good thing, and we LGBT folk have made a very good business case for LGBT inclusion in that diversity outreach. It’s now well-understood that open and out LGBT-folk are not security risks. Almost every academic institution has an openly gay professor or researcher, and most larger companies and universities
have specific policies that protect their LGBT employees from discrimination.
Much progress has been made, but there is still room for improvement…
SG: According to your website, you give out recognition awards. Could you give an example of what some of the winners of previous awards have done?
Our awards program, established in 2004, serves two purposes: First, it recognizes the professional contributions of LGBT Scientists and Engineers. Secondly, it provides role models of outstanding LGBT Scientists and Engineers to the public.
Our scientists of the year so far have been honored for
- contributions to the semi-conductor industry and to the understanding of how to make reliable chips (Larry Wagner)
- hurricane research which has led to significant improvements in hurricane track forecasts (Sim Aberson)
- setting the standard for quantitative estimates of the probability of future destructive earthquakes (Kerry Sieh)
- investigation of cell surface carbohydrates and biopolymers that contribute to cell surface recognition and cell-cell communication (Carolyn Bertozzi)
- contributions to the understanding of human linguistic communication (Arnold Zwicky)
- understanding, emulating, and controlling the structure and interactions of proteins (James Nowick)
Our engineers of the year so far have been honored for
- invention of “dynamic instruction scheduling”, which has become a classic computer hardware method for enhancing the performance of certain processors (Lynn Conway)
- improvements in the semiconductor manufacturing process (Peter Ventzek)
- pioneering work in software engineering involving development one of the
first desktop publishing toolsets (Tim Gill)
- design and development of classified missile systems of great importance
to the Department of Defense (Michael Steinberg)
- management of systems engineering and testing of the global positioning
system IIF, an upgrade of the original GPS, which is a worldwide timing
and navigation system (Anthony Gingiss)
SG: Are you familiar with skepticism as a course of thought in modern times?
BB: Any well-trained scientist will be familiar with Skepticism. Only, we
call it Scientific Method.
Properly executed Scientific Method is a form of applied Skepticism. We
observe the phenomena or data. We use reasoning to formulate a
hypothesis. We construct experiments and collect data to determine
whether the hypothesis is supported. We use critical thinking to
interpret the results. We revise the hypothesis if the data don’t support
it, and refine the experiments to dig a little deeper if the hypothesis is
SG: Does NOGLSTP have an official position on teaching Intelligent Design in
BB: NOGLSTP has not taken a position on Intelligent Design, simply because our
goals and expertise do not include curriculum content except that which
relates to presentation of LGBT issues in scientific research.
On a personal note, I would say that the ID discussion belongs with
theology discussions, not evolution discussions. I have no problem with it
being taught in the classroom, as long as it is not taught in any science
classroom. While Intelligent Design is a version of Creationism that some
scientists of faith find attractive, it is certainly no proven hypothesis
like evolution. Evolution is proven by scientific evidence. There is no
proof for any form of Creationism.
SG: Thank you, Barbara for this portion of the interview. I will have more questions for you later.
If you consider yourself a scientist, a technical professional, a science advocate, GLBT, or GLBT friendly, please visit http://www.noglstp.org for more information about supporting GLBT and Science, collective.