Poster advertising the event

May 15, 2017, by Charlotte Kingsbury

“No Sexuality Please: We’re Scientists!” Hidden Diversity in Chemistry and the sciences

It’s always great to be invited to an event that one of our Schools is delivering, and this week Charlotte from the P&C team had the pleasure to visit the School of Chemistry to hear Professor David K Smith of the University of York give a fantastic talk ‘No Sexuality Please; We’re Scientists’ about his own experience as a gay man in the STEM world, and the work he has been involved in to make LGBT+ lives more visible in the UK science sector.

As well as generously sharing information about his personal life and his research (and the connection between the two, particularly in terms of the scientific innovations it has led to), David provided a wealth of information about LGBT+ experiences, from world-maps showing the huge difference in LGBT+ rights across the globe, to outcomes of surveys of academics, students and support staff in international Universities which provide food for thought for any University colleague. David shared research that shows that for both staff and students, being unsure whether their University is positive about diversity or not can be as likely to keep them ‘in the closet’ as knowing for sure that it isn’t.  If members of our community with LGBT+ identities aren’t shown that they are safe and welcome, they are more likely to leave, to experience ill health, to feel disengaged from their colleagues and organisation, and less likely to share their diverse ways of seeing and thinking about the world – which are the things that can lead to innovation and new knowledge. Therefore for many reasons it is important to be visible about our support for and commitment to the values of equality, diversity and inclusion.  For LGBT+ issues, this could include displaying the LGBT+ rainbow symbol, hosting events such as today’s, and being mindful about language, such as not presuming that people’s partners and spouses will be of a different gender – not only in conversation but in policies, and when running events.

The lecture was hosted by Professor Steve Howdle, who tells us more about the event below:

Professor David K Smith delivering his talk

Professor David K Smith delivering his talk

In the School of Chemistry we are keen to broaden our diversity and to ensure that our school is an open and welcoming place to work.  As part of that we host some regular events and today we had an exceptional lecture from Professor David Smith. @professor_dave is well known on Twitter, but today he was here in person to talk about his life as an LGBT+ scientist.

11 people including the speaker in the foyer of the Chemistry building

Visitors to the School of Chemistry’s EDI lecture


I was the host for the day, and I was delighted that our efforts with advertising around the University had paid off and we had around 90 people come along for his talk – many of them from outside of our school.  Dave gave a superb and often humorous talk explaining his background and experiences.


A key message was to try to overcome the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” barrier that can and does prevent LGBT+ individuals from expressing their real selves in the work place. In academia this can lead to a lack of role models and a feeling that there is no inclusivity for staff and particularly for students. 

A stimulating lecture was followed by a very lively Q& A session and then a “drinks and nibbles” reception in our foyer. Dave was involved in fascinating discussions over wine, and was the subject of a succession of selfie requests – not something we normally see for our visiting speakers! I eventually had to intervene to ensure he had the chance to catch his train!


If your team is planning an event relating to wellbeing, dignity, engagement or equality, diversity and inclusion,  please share it with us at

Posted in Diversity & InclusionEqualityFaculty of ScienceGender EqualityLGBTQ+ EqualityPeople & Culture Events Programme