Diversity in Science? It’s not just about women

Hands-upLet’s admit it, how many of us in the science community have spoken about or held events to discuss diversity in science issues then ended up focusing largely on gender equality? Asking for an imaginary show of hands would result in a lot of arms waving in the air right now I reckon.

There seems to have been an increased awareness of equality and diversity issues in the science community of late. However, while this is great news, for the most part these appear to have focused on gender equality. This is clearly an issue of huge importance, but it’s also crucial to remember that diversity should relate to the inclusion of other disadvantaged groups too.

(This is not to say that all diversity initiatives just focus on women; I’m well-aware that they don’t. It’s just that, from my perspective, gender equality often tends to be a focus.

Phew, disclaimer done; let’s move on.)

It’s a well-known fact that the scientific workforce in the UK doesn’t reflect the make-up of British Society. Women are certainly one of the groups who are under-represented, but those with disabilities, those from ethnic minorities, the LGBT community and individuals from socially-disadvantaged groups are also consistently underrepresented.

The Biochemical Society believes that a diverse workforce provides equal opportunities for the best minds regardless of gender, race, disability, sexuality, beliefs or means. Furthermore it supports the view that diversity is not limited to gender, and barriers still remain in all aspects of underrepresented groups. Diversity has been identified as an area of strategic focus for the Biochemical Society in the next five years. Read our updated position statement to find out more.

As part of our work in this area, the Society recently launched a series of new Diversity in Science grants. This scheme will provide three grants of up to £500 to individuals, groups, charities or businesses to support and address issues relating to diversity in science. Initiatives such as research proposals, conferences, events and roadshows will all be considered as well as other projects; the grants are not designed to support members on an individual basis. The deadline for applications is 30 September 2014 and successful applicants will be informed by 31 October 2014.

Let’s hope that, alongside continuing to work towards a gender-balanced scientific workforce at all levels of the career ladder, we can also make progress towards breaking down the barriers faced by other disadvantaged groups.

PS – My (imaginary) hand was also in the air…

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