The way the ICR is tackling competition inequality in science

in 2010, the Black Lives Matter movement has been at the forefront of numerous people’s minds.

The early weeks following death of George Floyd at the tactile hands of the authorities in the usa were traumatic. The mere undeniable fact that this kind of injustice was caught on camera for several to witness was a life-changing moment for many those who viewed the video.

As disturbing and draining as George Floyd’s death was emotionally, it spurred an international proactive approach also, with protests over the global world, and businesses, communities and organisations prioritising discussion about race.

The protests definitely brought most of the issues we’ve been talking about for some time to the fore. We met with your LEADER, Professor Paul Workman, and had some in-depth and honest conversations about how precisely structural, systemic racial inequality affects all of us – also to share our thoughts as a forum how we can begin to address many of these issues.

Professor Workman followed on these conversations with some commitments for the way the ICR planned to deal with racial inequality.

It was a action-oriented and fast-paced couple of weeks – both exhausting and exciting for all of us involved. Now the actual work begins even as we continue steadily to engage across our organisation and commence to produce projects and deliver action.

A career in research as a Black scientist

I think my time in science has been smoother than most. Nevertheless, I actually do believe within the scientific field is just a thick glass ceiling for individuals from BAME backgrounds there, and more so for many who are Black even.

A pattern that’s well regarded and recognised inside our community is that despite having studied a science degree, and obtained work within science, lots of people from BAME communities eventually turn to make use of our skills in an alternative sector completely. These barriers mean we’re losing talent, and we need to work to smash this glass ceiling for many to break through together.

BAME: Beyond the statements

In early September, the ICR launched an action plan aiming some initial steps for exactly how we will enact our commitments towards achieving race equality.

Our action plan, BAME: Beyond the statements, seeks to handle the under-representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff in leadership roles and in research careers within the ICR.

It sets out the steps the ICR shall try create a breeding ground where all can thrive, by checking conversations about race across all facets of studying and working here, and trying to understand and address challenges faced by BAME students and staff.

We have made commitments across six initial aspects of work:

  • Increasing BAME representation in senior roles. We all know that the representation of Black staff in professorship roles is really a particular issue for the larger education sector
  • Appointing champions for ethnic diversity across our Executive board, Faculty and Academic Dean’s team
  • Running a campaign of awareness to start conversations around race
  • Embracing participation in equality networks and activities
  • Ensuring fair and equitable staff and student recruitment, including anonymisation of recruitment procedures where possible
  • Encouraging more BAME individuals to enter science through our public engagement and outreach activities.

Over the summer, the ICR has been consulting students and staff via a number of focus groups, to ensure we hear different views from throughout the organisation, to greatly help us enhance and accelerate our ‘Beyond the Statements’ plans.

Jointly run by the ICR and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, the Black, Asian and minority ethnic forum offers all our staff and students to generally meet and help promote diversity and drive greater equality within our workplaces.

Understanding progress

Good data is just a crucial kick off point to monitor and understand progress, and the ICR has devoted to publish a pay gap analysis by ethnicity in early 2021 to simply help understand and take actions to deal with any differences found.

It will be crucial that you continue steadily to assess our staff and student recruitment processes, and perhaps the steps we applied help us to attain inclusive and fair results.

The ICR also plans to analyse the ethnicity data it holds on each career road to understand and address the ‘leaky pipeline’ of BAME researchers and Corporate Services staff.

There is really a real energy for change – and I’ve felt buoyed by the support with this programme of work over the organisation.

The ongoing work of the Black, Asian and minority ethnic forum at the ICR and The Royal Marsden happens to be crucial in ensuring we’d a safe place where we’re able to celebrate our achievements and discuss issues we’ve, and we’re happy with our work as friends to really make the ICR an even more inclusive workplace where all staff feel welcome.

The types of conversations which are needed are not simple to have always. The entire point of inequality being fully a structural issue is that, often, it’s hard for people to recognise their particular role in something, or even to see the cards which can be stacked – the barricades which have to be behaviours and dismantled unlearned.

But we’re so very happy to be having these conversations also to start to see the ongoing work have the priority it deserves.

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