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Diversity in STEM Q4 2021

Putting diversity at the heart of science engagement

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Katherine Mathieson

Chief Executive, British Science Association 

Diversity is crucial to a thriving, welcoming and successful science sector. We need a future where science is more relevant, representative and connected to society.

The public view of science has changed over the past 20 months. The pandemic has shown that whole communities can be excluded from conversations about science, further perpetuating existing health and socioeconomic disparities. As we move forward, we must ensure the sector can be accessed by everyone.

As an organisation, we want to see a science industry that is as representative of UK society as possible, involving people with all levels of knowledge and from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds as well as protected characteristics.

Whilst there is a greater awareness of issues surrounding diversity in STEM, we need to take the next step, turning this understanding into actions and solutions. 

At the British Science Association (BSA), we are aiming to transform the diversity and inclusivity of science.

Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion 

At the British Science Association (BSA), we are aiming to transform the diversity and inclusivity of science. Though we had been focussing on audiences underserved by and underrepresented in science since 2014, this was the first time we set out a dedicated EDI strategy. We decided to:

  • Evolve our programmes to increase their relevance to audiences traditionally underrepresented in science engagement activities and empower people to run science engagement activities for their own networks/communities.
  • Develop our staff and internal systems to ensure the BSA reflects the society we want to see, whilst creating an inclusive workplace culture. 
  • Seek to influence other organisations and individuals in the science engagement sector to develop and improve their EDI practices to reach new audiences.

An example of this is throughout our work we champion underrepresented audiences. We ensure panels comprise of a mixture of speakers, actively seeking those whose voices aren’t typically showcased, such as involving young people in discussions with policymakers and business leaders at For Thought.

We assembled an EDI advisory group, a panel of paid experts from a variety of backgrounds, to consult on and hold us accountable for delivering the plan. The members regularly meet and contribute to programme design, implementation, strategic planning, recruitment and monitoring. 

Better representation of engagement 

We know there’s still much to do and we’re extremely grateful to those individuals from minoritised backgrounds who have helped us along the way. 

We continue to strive for better representation in science engagement and look forward to seeing how the sector progresses.

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