Discussing LGBTQIA+ in Engineering and Corporate America | AIChE

Discussing LGBTQIA+ in Engineering and Corporate America


“Sometimes while speaking to leaders at my company, they would ask me, ‘Why isn’t this person out?’” says Gayle Gibson, a retired chemical engineer who identifies as a lesbian. “They’ll say, well, ‘I’m accepting and I wouldn’t judge,’ and I always ask — ‘Have you ever said the actual words? Have you ever actually said the word transgender or lesbian in a work setting or a group meeting? Have you ever brought up the subject, not just with that individual, but with your whole work group? Have you ever talked about going to a gay pride parade, or anything like that?’ And, of course, the answer is typically no.”

During company discussions on issues of diversity, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual/ally, and plus (LGBTQIA+) community is often overlooked. Gibson advocates for an inclusive environment in the workplace, where members of the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and accepted.

Discussing matters of gender, race, and sexuality is particularly important in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, which historically lack diversity.


The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual/ally, and plus (LGBTQIA+) community is a silent minority that is often overlooked during discussions of diversity in the workplace. Several members of the ChE, LGBTQIA+ community have had unique experiences that range from negative to positive. Companies can learn from these experiences, and implement practices that help foster inclusivity for all.

Coming out in corporate America

In her 34 years at DuPont, Gibson worked in engineering design, plant improvement, research and development (R&D), new product and process development, manufacturing, supply chain, and business improvement, climbing the corporate ladder to executive management over that time. Her journey of coming out in corporate America is similar to other experiences ...

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