Diversity and Inclusion

The Physiological Society has a proud history of being at the forefront of the life sciences. Since our foundation in 1876 we have been a home for leading physiologists from around the world. 

In 2015 we celebrated the centenary of our first female Member being elected and we marked it by strengthening our commitment to ensuring our membership is fully inclusive. 

In September 2018 welcomed our first female President who is committed to overseeing the continuing improvement in diversity and inclusion within The Society. Professor Bridget Lumb says

“Female members have a long history of very active roles in The Society and I am proud to be elected as the first female President at such an exciting time in our evolution. Members are at the heart of the new strategy and diversity in our membership is essential to the successful delivery.”

True diversity requires fair representation of all communities of physiologists and our aim is to remove any barriers that restrict physiologists from joining and participating in Society activities. Since 2006, we have asked Members, and others interacting with The Society, to complete an equal opportunities form that provides valuable information to help us track progress in all under-represented groups. Our past President Professor David Eisner wrote a piece in our members’ magazine, Physiology News (Issue 110, page 6), which highlighted the importance of sharing your information and we would ask you to consider completing this form and thus build on our existing data. 

Proactive work to increase Diversity and Inclusion

In early 2018, we introduced a minimum expectation of 33% female representation in all scientific meetings, and are working towards a target of 50%. We know that women are under-represented in the most senior scientific roles, and we are acting to rebalance the equilibrium of speakers at our events by looking outside immediate scientific circles and also giving a platform to the next generation of female senior scientists. 

In 2014-17, all our scientific meetings met the minimum expectation. Dr Sue Deuchars, The Society’s Meetings Secretary is also one of our Trustee Champions for Diversity and Inclusion; she says:

“We are proud of progress to date in our aim to make scientific meetings accessible, appropriately balanced and open to all.  We recognise that there is still plenty to achieve, therefore we are continually open to ideas from our members regarding best practice, and we look forward to hearing from you.” 

We are also supporting the progression of early career physiologists to remove obstacles that might otherwise limit progression to the most senior scientific roles. In 2017, our Affiliate Working Group was formed and is represented on each of The Society’s advisory committees to ensure that the voice of the next generation is a part of every discussion. This working group was behind the popular Future Physiology conference that took place in December 2017 and more are planned. 

Dr Mat Piasecki is the outgoing Chair of this Committee and he explains why this group is important in encouraging diversity: 

“The Society is committed to investing in the next generation of physiologists, and a key aspect of this strategy is ensuring our early career researchers are provided with the opportunities needed to help them progress. This includes providing dedicated presentation opportunities at our meetings and by having full representation on our Committees.”

These are just some examples of the proactive steps we are taking, links to other activities can be found below. 

Keeping Diversity and Inclusion on the Agenda

The Society’s drive to increase female representation extends beyond scientific meetings to all our activities. To achieve this, we have established a network of individuals that will take the lead for the areas of activity in which they work. The staff group meets each quarter to discuss relevant progress in their areas of activity. In addition, there is an academic working group made up of members of each Committee, which meet annually to consider reports and next steps. Our Trustees have ultimate responsibility for progress in diversity and inclusivity and this work is led by our Diversity Champions, Sue Deuchars and Rachel Tribe.

Professor Rachel Tribe says:

“This is a key initiative to ensure our Society continues to thrive and be relevant to the future generation of physiologists, biomedical scientists and clinical researchers.  As a community, it is essential that all feel welcome and are equally supported in their interactions with the Society. Our first step will be to address the gender balance across all our activities. We hope to use this experience to then enhance inclusion for other groups.”   

Bridget Lumb, The Society's first female president Rachel Tribe, Trustee Champion for Diversity and Inclusion Sue Deuchars, Trustee Champion for Diversity and Inclusion Mat Piasecki

From left to right: Bridget Lumb, The Society's first female president; Rachel Tribe, Trustee Champion for diversity and inclusion; Sue Deuchars, Trustee Champion for diversity and inclusion; Mat Piasecki, outgoing Chair of the Affiliate Working Group.

Support mechanisms at The Society 

Grants for Carers to support Member attendance at Physiology 2019 and other Society meetings

Introductory Mentoring Service – helping Members to share experience and guidance

Resources to Support Mental Health – resources designed to support the mental wellbeing of our Members and the wider scientific community, and to raise awareness of mental illness.

If you have any questions about our work towards diversity and inclusion, please email cstokes@physoc.org.

Other useful links

Animation on Unconscious Bias, The Royal Society - The key concepts and academic research around unconscious bias

Crossing Boundaries: Encouraging Diversity, Margaret Ann Armour – A keynote session looking at diversity in academia and publishing

Celebrating 100 years of Women's Membership of The Physiological Society – Resources produced by The Society during our 2015 celebration

Gender and Funding – is there a problem? A discussion hosted by The Society to investigate links between gender and funding success

Making a case for diversity and inclusion – Research highlighting the business case for diversity