Taking Pride in Science and Supporting Inclusive Environments

31st July 2021

At the Quadram, we’re committed to celebrating diversity. We strive for the Institute to be a place where everyone feels welcome, respected, and safe. By supporting inclusive environments, staff and students can achieve their true potential.

Norwich PrideNorwich Pride Logo is an annual extravaganza celebrating our local LGBTTQQIAA+ community. Now in its 13th year, the 2021 celebrations will host colourful festivities across the city and online through Norwich Pride at Home.

Our Norwich partners are also involved in the celebrations; the University of East Anglia (UEA)’s Staff Pride are part of the Virtual March, whilst the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) LGBT+ Staff Network hosted an organised walk on the hospital grounds and feature in the 2021 Norwich Pride Guide.

To mark Norwich Pride 2021, Dr Stephen Robinson and Prof Cynthia Whitchurch spoke to us about the important work taking place at the Quadram and across Norwich Research Park to support inclusive environments in science.

Dr Stephen Robinson

Photo Credit: Big C Charity

Dr Stephen Robinson is the Chair of the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee for the Norwich Bioscience Institutes (The Quadram Institute, John Innes Centre, Earlham Institute and The Sainsbury Laboratory).

Stephen shares his experiences as an LGBTTQQIAA+ person in science and EDI’s mission to create a space where everyone feels safe.

Meeting with a colleague recently (remotely, of course), I was asked, “what have you found rewarding/enjoyed over the last year?”. I replied, “being chair of the Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee”. My response was met with some surprise, and the comment of “chairing a committee is not something most people say they enjoy.” But I truly meant it, especially given the past year we have had!

In honour of Norwich Pride, I thought I would make this a bit personal.

I know from personal experience that only when “all of me”, including the LGBTTQQIAA+ part (Google that if you are not familiar with what all the letters stand for), is present do I bring my best, most creative, self to the table. I grew up and was educated in an environment where being my true self wasn’t safe. Consequently, part of me was missing from research; only when I didn’t have to hide a part of me did all aspects of my life flourish, including my research and my interactions with the scientists around me.

I recognise that not all our differences are as “easily” hidden. Celebrating and embracing our differences (hidden or not) is vital for creating an inclusive environment; this is the only way QIB is going to get the best science out of the people who work here. Quadram Institute Bioscience (QIB) allows me to be myself. The mission of the EDI Committee is to help break down inequalities and create an environment where everyone feels safe to be and valued for who they truly are. This benefits all of us and ensures QIB, in turn, benefits from all of our differences.

Prof Cynthia Whitchurch

Prof Cynthia Whitchurch is the Academic Lead for Athena Swan at the Quadram Institute. Cynthia explains how the Athena Swan Charter supports inclusive spaces in Higher Education and Research Institutes.

What is Athena Swan?

The Athena Swan Charter is a framework of 10 principles. The charter helps higher education institutions and research institutes support and transform policies, practices, action plans, and culture to achieve gender equality. The Athena Swan awards celebrate good practices in eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff and students.

Importantly, whilst Athena Swan is principally focussed on supporting and promoting gender equality, the scope of the Athena Swan Charter encompasses issues relevant to the LGBTTQQIAA+ community. Athena Swan fosters organisation-wide understanding that individuals have the right to determine their own gender identity. The charter tackles the specific issues that trans and non-binary people face because of their identity.

The Quadram and Athena Swan

We are currently preparing our first application for an Athena Swan Bronze award. By joining Athena Swan, we demonstrate our commitment to developing equitable and inclusive practices to achieve equality in representation, career progression and success for everyone in the Institute.

What does Athena Swan involve?

The Athena Swan application process involves undergoing a self-assessment of gender equality in the Institute, including acquiring and assessing both quantitative data of our staff and students and qualitative evidence of policies, practices, systems, and arrangements.  The recent institute-wide survey completed by almost all QIB staff and students was a vital component of this consultation process.  The self-assessment will inform us of gender equity activities that are already in place and identify challenges and improvement opportunities. We are also developing a four-year plan to build on this assessment to instigate organisational changes, including ongoing and transparent self-assessments to evaluate our progress.

I am excited to be the academic lead for the QIB Athena Swan Bronze award application and am looking forward to working with the QIB EDI committee to achieve our gender equity goals.

Discover more about Athena Swan and the Athena Swan Charter here.

There are many different ways you can get involved in Norwich Pride. Find out more here.

Norwich Research Park staff and students at Norwich Pride 2019. Photo Credit: Félix Ramos León