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We need the ocean and the ocean needs ALL of us: International LGBTQIA2S+ STEM Day

Ocean Progress Pride Flag featuring images by Meg BakerRobin Gwen AgarwalMartin OlssonPeter WoodardJerry KirkhartEd BiermanAnsgar WalkMike LehmannFred HsuPatrick Doll & Chloe Robinson.

Ocean Wise CEO and President Lasse Gustavsson writes about the importance of fostering inclusivity, equity, and accessibility within our communities and workplace.

Picture a flourishing ocean. Visualize the species, habitats, and colours; the diversity of life working seamlessly together as an ecosystem. This diversity is integral to a healthy and vibrant ocean.

In our ocean diversity is obvious, while above the water it too often goes unseen. Diversity is key within any system. Whether it be a coral reef or a workplace, diversity allows for creativity, innovation, and resilience to thrive and develop.

At Ocean Wise we are committed to fostering inclusivity, equity, and accessibility within the communities we are a part of. Acknowledging our shared vulnerability on a healthy ocean highlights our interconnectedness to each other.

As a conservation organization that relies heavily on the skills within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) we want to mark the International Day of LGBTQIA+ People in STEM, which takes place every November 18, by celebrating the strengths we see come from multiple perspectives unifying around a common cause.

With more than 50% of 2SLGBTQIA+ Canadians sharing that they aren’t comfortable being open about their gender or sexuality in the workplace, it is clear that there is work to be done.

At Ocean Wise we are committed to creating a workplace culture that promotes belonging and values diversity. As a result I have the distinct pleasure of working with incredible people. One of these people, Dr. Chloe Robinson (she/they), Director of the Whales Initiative at Ocean Wise, recently shared some of their experiences of being out in the workplace and the importance of visible role models.

Dr. Chloe Robinson, Ocean Wise Whales Initiative Director

“I am a proud lesbian. I wear that badge with honour, and I have learnt over the years how essential it is to be able to bring my full, authentic self to the workplace. I am lucky to work for an organization that puts a huge emphasis on the necessity for diversity and inclusion and fosters a safe, comfortable environment in which I can be myself and be proud of my identity. But I didn’t always feel this way. 

Throughout my career, I have found being openly 2SLGBTQIA+ in the workplace to be more difficult than being ‘out’ in my social circles. As a 21-year-old bursting out of the closet at the start of my masters degree, I used to feel like I lived two very different lives in and outside of my professional life. As a young woman in the field of science, I feared if I was openly out that my already limited influence would be reduced further. Without question the fact that I had no role models who reflected this important part of myself was a major driver of this fear. I didn’t know if it was ‘OK’ to come out because I couldn’t see anyone who had done it before me.

I take my role as Director at Ocean Wise very seriously. I am thankful everyday that I get to use my scientific knowledge to protect whales in a meaningful way. But I’m also thankful that I have the opportunity to be a visible lesbian role model within a field that hasn’t always been welcoming.” – Dr. Chloe Robinson

Visibility of 2SLGBTIA+ role models is clearly pivotal for young folks in the early stages of their respective careers. But it is also crucial for creating an organization that can truly make a difference in the world. It is the differences that our authentic selves bring with use every day that allow us to be our best selves, and do our best work.

We are not perfect – and we never will be – but I am proud to lead an organization that values diversity as a strength. Thank you Chloe for sharing your story.

For further reading, visit the article International LGBTQIA2S+ STEM Day: Role Models in Ocean Science.

By Lasse Gustavsson

About Dr. Chloe Robinson

Chloe joined the Ocean Wise Whales Initiative team at the start of July 2021. They have been involved with many 2SLGBTQIA+ initiatives, including 500 Queer Scientists and British Ecological Society’s Rainbow Research blog series, and led a series of online workshops on increasing visibility of 2SLGBTQIA+ people in STEM for the University of Guelph. Chloe is the Director of the Ocean Wise Whales Initiative.

Posted November 17, 2023 by Rosemary Newton

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