Charlie Wand: Featured LGBTQ+ ChemE Professional

22/23   in the series Featured LGBTQ ChemEs & Allies

AIChE presents the most recent post in this series featuring LGBTQ+ engineers and their allies as part of an ongoing effort to share stories of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Other related efforts include a variety of LGBTQ+ programs and events at the 2021 Annual Meeting and ASC and those held at least year’s meeting. These programs and events were all supported by the AIChE Foundation’s Doing a World of Good Campaign.

In this installment of our series, we interviewed Charlie Wand, who discusses his experience as an LGBTQ+  Lecturer at the University of Exeter. 

Where did you complete your chemical engineering education?

I received my MChem in Chemistry from the University of Oxford (UK) followed by a PhD from the University of York (UK).

How many years have you been a member of AIChE?

I’m a new member of AIChE and I joined in 2021.

Tell us a bit about your job and your job responsibilities. What’s a typical day at work?

I’ve just started my new job as a Lecturer at the University of Exeter so I haven’t settled into a routine yet. My previous job as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Manchester was mostly research based, although I did a bit of teaching and supervised some post-graduate students alongside my research, something that I really enjoyed.

Working in academia means that every day is different and I have to balance research, meetings with colleagues and collaborators, teaching, and writing up results for publication and funding reports. On a typical day, I’ll get into the office at 8:30am and check my emails and simulations that have run overnight.

My research is entirely computer based so I spend most of my time at my desk. On most days, I have one or two meetings, around which I either work on my research or catch up on paperwork, and I usually finish work about 5:30/6:00pm.

Tell us a bit about your experience as an out LGBTQ professional working in engineering.

I have not had many problems about being out in work and I’ve always felt supported by my workplace in being myself at work.

What are the most important issues that LGBTQ engineers deal with in the workplace today?

I think representation is very important. When I was studying, I didn’t know of a single trans man in a similar field and seriously questioned if there was a place for me in academia due to this. It is one of the reasons I am vocal about my identity at work.

Do you know others in the profession who struggle with being out in today’s workplace?

I know that it is hard to be out at work and I’ve had conversations with other bi chemical engineers about how difficult it is to be out, particularly as bi, which faces different (although overlapping) stigmas to coming out as gay/lesbian. 

How can people help foster a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ chemical engineers?

The main thing is not making assumptions, either about a person’s gender or about the gender of their partner. For example, a simple thing is to move away from gendered language, for example, saying “hello everyone” instead of “hello ladies and gentlemen.” 

One small gesture that I always notice is when people include their pronouns on their email signature which normalizes sharing of pronouns. It is particularly important for cis allies to do, otherwise simply having them outs you as trans. When I see someone has included pronouns, I feel a lot safer around them.  

Does your organization do anything to foster inclusivity for LGBTQ people?

The University has an LGBT staff network which holds regular events. There is also a local network for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies working and studying in the local Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) sector in Exeter.

Do you have any suggestions of what out LGBTQ chemical engineers can do to help make their professional climate more safe, welcoming, and inclusive for diverse engineers?

Apart from the things I’ve previously mentioned, I think that remembering that everyone has different experiences and considering that intersectionality of different minority identities (e.g. gender, race, disability) is important. If someone tells you their lived experience, believe them. After all, they are the expert in it!

Charlie and his dog, Beatrix.


Charlie and his dog, Beatrix.

Tell us a bit about your personal life.

My New Year’s resolution for 2021 was to do a drawing every day and I’ve managed to stick to it! Sometimes they are just simple doodles, other times they are more detailed. I’m currently doing a series of the elements to put into a periodic table.

Are there any LGBTQ inspirations, role models, or moments in history that are particularly important to you?

One of my LGBTQ inspirational people is Jen Yockney, a bi activist. She has been working as a longstanding volunteer for 20+ years and runs the Manchester bi+ group, as well as running bi community news (bimonthly magazine). She was also the first nonbinary person to make the honours list.

Do you have a coming out story you’d like to share?

When I started my job at Manchester I was quite nervous about coming out to people but I felt that it was important to raise the profile of LGBTQ engineers. After being in the job for about a month, I decided to come out to one of my colleagues in the office. The first thing they said to me was “did you decide to come out to me because I’m gay?” I had no idea that they were gay, and we both had a good laugh / commiseration at having to come out repeatedly.

Gaydar: Does it exist?

If it does, I definitely don’t have it!

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Interested in helping?

Are you an LGBTQ+ chemical engineer and AIChE member interested in sharing your story to help create awareness around diversity and inclusion? Are you an LGBTQ+ ally interested in helping with diversity and inclusion efforts? Send us a note at chenected@aiche.org with the subject “Diversity and Inclusion.”