One-Third Identify as LGBTQIA+ in State of Data Science Survey Results
October is LGBT history month, and while we look back at the huge strides made so far, it’s important to remember just how much is left to be done. Founded by a Missouri teacher in 1994, LGBT history month focuses on teaching queer history and continuing to shine a light on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Though not every country celebrates in autumn, the United States tends to designate October for honoring queer history.
Though many first think of the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 when remembering important moments in LGBTQIA+ history, there has been a record of queer identities and sexual orientations since humans could communicate. From the famed lesbian poet Sappho to Achilles and Patroclus, to the Hijra, to the trans history of Joan of Arc, to the Tale of Genji, history is ripe with queer individuals. Though historians have often overlooked queer love and identity as just ‘two close friends,’ it’s clear that queer identity is just as intertwined with the human experience as the need to eat and sleep.
Ipsos estimates the global average of adults identifying as members of the LGBTQIA+ community to be about 9% and notes that Millenials and Gen Zers are more likely than any other age group to identify as queer. But while the U.S. national average seems to hover around 7%, our 2023 State of Data Science survey had 33% of respondents self-identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. This larger-than-average percentage is likely due to the relatively welcoming tech space.
In 2020, half of Glassdoor’s top companies for LGBTQIA+ folks were tech companies such as Google, IBM, and Microsoft. And while the majority of tech workers still identify as cisgender and male, the growth of LGBTQIA+ workers is a good sign of continued diversity and inclusion efforts.
Though there’s still much more ground to cover when it comes to creating equitable workplaces, it seems as though the tech space is primed to lead the charge with large advocacy groups, such as Lesbians Who Tech, Out in Tech, and Maven Youth supporting the growth and development of queer tech workers.
Alongside the more traditional gender-discrepancy-focused groups such as Girls Who Code and Women in Data, the growth of queer-in-tech communities and increased support and focus from diversity, equality, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) efforts and employee resource groups means we’re starting to see measurable change in demographics in the space.
Anaconda’s survey, for example, has run for six consecutive years, but we only just asked respondents to identify their sexual orientation and identity this year. Our respondents were also divided into four main groups based on job responsibilities: data science practitioner, IT worker, student, or academic/researcher. Of the 2,414 individuals who responded, only 131 (5%) declined to answer our identity questions. We also included more diverse gender identity options in this year’s survey and found that about 29% identify as female, 68% as male, and about 1% each of nonbinary, agender, and two-spirit.
Though this is still a relatively small sample size, the higher-than-average number of queer respondents could be attributed to a number of things including remote work, education, and community support.
Technology companies led the charge toward remote work even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced other industries to follow suit. With many small start-ups and the growing dependence on Zoom and Slack, tech companies tend to have smaller, more agile teams that often work in sprints around a ticketing system. Working asynchronously and mostly on individual projects or pieces of projects, there’s less need for tech workers to meet or work in person.
This remote flexibility means greater control and safety for LGBTQIA+ folks. It also means more flexibility in where workers live, which in turn can help in accessing gender-affirming healthcare, mental health support, and therapy. These tools and supports can be paramount in a worker’s coming out or can help them feel safe physically and emotionally during work hours.
Many tech jobs don’t require formal educational degrees, lowering the barrier to entry for folks starting out in the industry. Our 2023 State of Data Science survey found that 50% of workers had the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree or lower and many turn to courses online or certification programs to learn new coding languages and technologies. As innovation in the tech space is so rapid, many folks are learning new skills on the job rather than before entering the workforce. This forced agility actually benefits queer workers who historically face discrimination and harassment in educational settings, often making it more difficult for them to pursue traditional education.
Related to both remote work and education is community support. Whether it’s in the form of a chosen family or additional resources, community support and networking have been a boon to tech workers identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Like the organizations listed above, there are a number of programs working to destigmatize queer identities and promote a more inclusive workplace.
Historically, STEM fields have been made up of predominantly white men, and while that is still the majority, our survey and the work of groups such as Ipsos, HRC, and more have shown ways to improve those statistics. Dedicated organizations whose teams work to get queer individuals in C-suite level positions, reach out to local youth to share STEM skills, and provide community networking and resources are the foundation of change we need toward a more equitable tech space.