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A decade of diversity – the Institute of Physics’ journey in diversity and inclusion

News and Views

A decade of diversity – the Institute of Physics’ journey in diversity and inclusion

News and Views

Jennifer Dyer
Institute of Physics, London, UK

The Institute of Physics established our Diversity Programme, our Diversity Team (originally 1.6 FTE, now 2.9 FTE) and Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Committee (which reports to our Council) in 2004, after pressure from our members, especially our Women in Physics Group, to “do something” about the issues for women in physics.

Following a member-led project visiting UK academic physics departments to talk about women’s progression, we established our gender equality award scheme, Project Juno, in 2007. The original aim of Juno was to support women in academic physics but over the past decade, Juno has evolved beyond academia, has introduced an additional principle on professional conduct (covering harassment and bullying) and a new level, Juno Excellence, to encourage community ownership and engagement on gender equality. Our members are the lifeblood of Project Juno, helping us with visits to departments, assessing applications and giving feedback on progress. Currently we have 21 Juno Champions and 16 Juno Practitioners, demonstrating how well-regarded the scheme has become amongst the physics community.

In 2011, we carried out our first Member Diversity Survey, an anonymous survey of UK & Ireland members, to obtain a snapshot of their diversity profiles. We repeated the survey in 2015 and this year, 2019, we will be repeating the survey with expanded questions on workplace culture to start a new focus on tackling bullying and harassment.

Following our 2015 survey, members from our LGBT+ community encouraged us to establish an LGBT+ network initially with the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and, from 2017, with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). This has culminated in our three organisations running the first UK climate survey for LGBT+ physical scientists, the results of which will be launched in June this year.

The diversity team has always faced the challenge of being both inward and outward looking – tackling barriers to diversity in our own internal practices, operations and governance as well as among our much wider membership and community. This year we are submitting our own application to Project Juno, demonstrating our commitment to embedding diversity across all that we do.

And, looking to the future, we hope to ensure we continue to make a constructive contribution to culture change within the Institute, ensuring that all members and staff understand and respect the value of diversity and inclusion in their working lives. We hope that our 2019 member diversity survey shows that we continue to make improvements in the diversity of our membership. We hope to continue to be a champion in the STEM community on diversity. All of this takes resource, passion, commitment from the top and the willingness for change, both bottom up and top down. We know we’re not there yet but we are positive about the changes we know we can make.

As for advice after a decade of diversity work:

It takes time and resource; there is no getting away from that. But you don’t have to tackle everything at once. Decide on a few priorities and start on them.

Gathering data, so you know where the issues are, is vital. Looking at the different stages of your own pipeline enables you to address intrinsic barriers in employment, membership, governance, etc.

Members can really help drive change. Most of our D&I programme has arisen from our members being willing to be involved in initiatives for change.

Commitment from the top is fundamental, and so is the appetite for change. There’s no point rushing into an action plan, if there isn’t any willingness to address issues that are found. Developing an inclusive culture takes time.

It’s a continuous cycle of review, re-evaluation, seeking constructive feedback, and improving. It’s only by identifying why things aren’t working that you can look to change.

For all our diversity information and publications, see our web pages

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