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NWO celebrates… Coming Out Day

Column by LGBTI+ coordinator Léon Ouwerkerk

In the section 'NWO celebrates…', we highlight special days that we as members of the NWO community can celebrate together. In this newsletter we point out Coming Out Day, which is held every year on 11 October. This day marks the moment that lesbian women, homosexual men, and bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI+) open up about their sexual orientation or gender identity: the day that they come out of the closet, or their ‘coming out’ as it is commonly referred to. NWO/NWO-I is celebrating Coming Out Day by flying the rainbow flag at its offices in Utrecht and The Hague and at all NWO Institutes. Léon Ouwerkerk, HR advisor with CWI and LGBTI+ coordinator for both NWO and NWO-I, wrote a personal column about Coming Out Day.


Hello, I am Léon, and my pronouns are he/him/his.

I hope you haven’t stopped reading or got a sudden rash due to my presumed wokeness.

Frankly, until about eight months ago, I was not convinced about the usefulness of sharing my pronouns, but then I read the (download the PDF at the bottom of this page) article in The Lancet (Sinton et al., 2020).

It states that visibility creates a crucial sense of individual belonging and security for LGBTI+ people, and those who are able to be open about their sexuality and gender can serve as role models for the wider community. The reverse problem of invisibility is exacerbated in STEM (= Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields due to heteronormative stereotypes, which can lead to challenges for LGBTI+ individuals in the workplace. The reluctance to come out at work can be rooted in notions of wanting to appear professional and rigorous, something also often conflated with heteronormativity. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that there is both a visibility and under-representation problem for LGBTI+ professionals and students in STEM.

The article in The Lancet also mentions a survey of LGBTI+ physical scientists in the UK, which showed that this group commonly feels isolated. Almost 50% of transgender researchers have considered leaving or have left their jobs in STEM.

I think this is a problem because it means that we are losing talent due to the invisibility of LGBTI+ people in the workplace, and/or people don’t feel comfortable at work.

The article suggests multiple macro-interventions, which sound familiar to me because NWO is already working on most of them. But it also mentions micro-interventions, that you can take as a person. One of them is sharing your pronouns.

That made me realise that sharing your pronouns is not about yourself, but about your effort to support your colleagues regardless of your own sexual identity.

I was born as a cisman (my gender identity and expression matches the biological sex that was assigned to me when I was born). I don’t have to let people know how I like to be addressed. But sharing your pronouns, makes it easier for transgender, intersexual, non-binary and other colleagues to share theirs. It makes work life easier for them.

I am not suggesting that you should mention your pronouns upon every introduction, but what harm can it do to share them under an email or on an ‘About Me’ PowerPoint slide. At the very least, it shows that you are open-minded and a safe person for LGBTI+ colleagues.

Of course, nobody has to do this, and we certainly do not want to force colleagues out of the closet with such a request. But you – also if you are a straight cisgender person – could start today by including your pronouns in your automatic signature under your email.

Thanks, and have a nice Coming Out Day,
Léon Ouwerkerk (he/him/his)
LGBTI+ coordinator

Newsletter Inside NWO-I, September 2021


Diversity and inclusion at NWO and NWO-I

This new section will be published on both the NWO intranet Joost and the newsletter Inside NWO-I. This is an initiative from the NWO-D and NWO-I wide Diversity team. We aim to realise working in an inclusive organisation with inclusive procedures. We believe that we can achieve our strategic ambitions as NWO if we also seek to be a diverse organisation with an inclusive culture. Diversity brings us creativity, innovation, and renewal. In addition to this, we are convinced that we will have more societal impact as NWO if our organisation reflects the society we are part of. This means that as an employer, NWO needs to ensure that everybody is welcome, can be themselves and can perform at their best. This Diversity and Inclusion calendar contributes to that. You can read more about diversity and inclusion on the NWO website. And in the January edition of Inside NWO-I, we published the article “Striving for an organisation where everybody can be themselves” about diversity within NWO and NWO-I.

Section NWO celebrates … based on an annual calendar

We base the section “NWO celebrates…” on an annual calendar that we have produced ourselves. You can find our calendar here. An annual calendar does not necessarily have to start on 1 January. Various Roman emperors and several popes changed the dates making a year start on 1 March, or 25 March or perhaps 1 January? That set us thinking: which dates do we still take for granted, and how do others view that? Time for a calendar that includes all special days: days that we as NWO employees can celebrate together. We hope this calendar will help us to get to know each other better, increase our knowledge about other festive days, and give us opportunities to open up the conversation and discover which (festive) days are special for us and why.

See the calendar 'NWO celebrates' and read the other articles from the section 'NWO celebrates...'

Would you like to participate in this section?

Is your (festive) day missing from the calendar? Or would you like to say something in the section “NWO celebrates…” about one of the special days on this calendar? If that is the case, then please send an email to Nicole Verhoeven ( Then we will add your date to the calendar and contact you for a possible interview for this section.

Confidental Infomation