Barbara Belmont (she/her) is a member of and dedicated volunteer for Out to Innovate (formerly known as National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, or NOGLSTP), the American Chemical Society, and the American Association for Advancement of Science. She's also full-time instructional faculty at California State University Dominguez Hills, teaching analytical chemistry and mentoring research students at the intersection of chemical education and analytical chemistry. She has shared her life of STEM and LGBTQ+ activism with her wife, Rochelle Diamond, since 1983.
Ed note: 500QS is one of the many orgs that's received financial support from NOGLSTP, which funded the re-launch of our website to include search functionality.
How did Out to Innovate/NOGLSTP begin?
Like many LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations, NOGLSTP was created at the intersection of grass-roots equal rights activism and the need to network socially with colleagues of like mind. Inspired by Triangle Area Gay Scientists (established 1977) and Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Scientists (established 1979), the original organizing efforts for a nationwide association of gay and lesbian scientists planted its seeds at the January 1980 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in San Francisco. At that meeting, a special session was held to discuss problems arising from homophobia in the scientific workplace. Issues were raised that were of concern to all scientists, and the National Organization of Lesbian and Gay Scientists (NOLGS) was created as a grassroots network to organize events and meetings to address those issues.
NOGLSTP grew out of the informal NOLGS network, and was formalized as an organization in August 1983 with a membership structure, a board of directors, and a regular newsletter. “Technical Professionals” was appended to the organization name to indicate a welcoming of engineers, mathematicians, educators, clinicians, and all people who earned a living or were interested in science and technology. Inclusion of “bi” and “trans” were not yet in the naming nomenclature of organizations at the time, although all people were welcomed regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation. NOGLSTP incorporated in the State of California in 1991 and received its initial 501(c)(3) non-profit determination from the IRS in 1992.
What are some examples of what Out to Innovate/NOGLSTP has achieved? [Ed note: What follows is a very, very long list—it's also well worth reading.]
We explain science to our community and bring our community concerns to science. Shortly after incorporation, we were recognized as a AAAS affiliate and have had a voice at the AAAS programming table ever since. We have presented scientific symposia at AAAS annual meetings every few years ever since. These symposia brought to national attention the topics of concern to LGBTQ+ people and scientists—homophobia in AIDS research, genetics testing, health care disparities, transgender biology, PREP, mentoring, demographics, diversity inclusion—all before they were in the mainstream conversation.
We helped people establish their LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Groups and get formal Equal Employment Opportunity policies to include LGBTQ+. We initiated the idea of LGBTQ+ inclusion in diversity movements long before it was common, and gave resources to many LGBTQ+ individuals to convince their employers to adopt anti-discrimination language in their Equal Employment Opportunity Policies. We also established a mentoring program through Mentornet that matches students and early career professionals with mid- to late-career LGBTQ+ scientists and engineers.
We network with other professional societies, and have provided resources to individuals and staff to make these professional societies more welcoming and inclusive of LGBTQ+. We have formal relationships with the American Chemical Society, Society of Women Engineers, National Postdoctoral Association, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Ornithological Society, American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and American Association for the Advancement of Science. We collaborate with SACNAS, Great Minds in STEM, American Society for Engineering Education, DiscoverE, SPECTRA, and more.
We have provided resources and personnel referrals to government agencies in matters of security clearance, science and technology policy, department staffing, discrimination/harassment, and equal opportunity. We celebrate the achievements of queer people in STEM with our annual recognition awards for LGBTQ+ Scientist, Engineer, and Educator of the Year, established in 2005. We established our biennial conference—the Out to Innovate Career Summit for LGBTQ+ People in STEM—in 2010, a summit that fosters intergenerational mentoring and networking, showcases student research, celebrates our achievements and achievers, and brings to the center stage inspiring LGBTQ+ people who are Out and Accomplished.
We established the Out to Innovate Scholarship in 2010 to supply scholarships to STEM undergraduates and graduate students. These scholarships are funded externally, initially by Battelle Memorial Institute, then by Motorola Solutions Foundation. Recently, we have had engineering scholarships supported by InPhi, Avangrid, and Berkshire Hathaway.
We manage our recent anonymous donor's fund for Career Development Fellowships for trans, non-binary, and intersex grad students and post-doctoral fellows, and we support like-minded organizations with resources. For example, we funded 500 Queer Scientists to create a searchable website. We funded oSTEM to create their first brochures, back before social media was a thing.
What do you want LGBTQ+ scientists to know about Out to Innovate/NOGLSTP?
We are a professional society and a global community of LGBTQ+ people in STEM. We are a membership-driven organization and run by dedicated volunteers with the mutual vision of making STEM attractive to and supportive of LGBTQ+ people. We invite all LGBTQ+ STEM folk to join our organization.
What is next for Out to Innovate/NOGLSTP?
We are in the middle of a rebranding, to be known as "Out to Innovate" henceforth. We have changed our name to walk our talk about inclusion and diversity.
Has there been anything challenging or surprising that you've learned or experienced while doing this work?
The most challenging thing I've experienced is time and money. As a volunteer with a full-time job, it's hard to find the time to really get things done. If we had a sustainable amount of money, we could hire staff to do some things that we volunteers don't have time to do: represent at professional society conventions, speak at events, travel to Capitol Hill, consistently manage social media, etc.
What makes Out to Innovate/NOGLSTP special to you?
When I was coming out, I had no role models, especially in science. Finding an organization of queer people who spoke my STEM language was like finding home. I hope that my involvement with this organization helps other young people navigate their path with PRIDE!