The first EDI-related event organized by the Diversity focus group took place over the summer of 2021. The aim was to raise awareness about EDI-related issues at the workplace, in science and beyond, through a sponsored screening of the movie Picture a Scientist, followed-up by an informal virtual discussion to exchanges views, experiences and ideas. About 60 employees took the opportunity to watch the movie. Thirty of them including Group Leaders with SIB Employees joined the virtual follow-up discussion that took place on 26 August. Here is a summary of the discussion and some of the learnings.

There was anger, shock, incredulity. But also, resignation. Reactions to the movie, and the situations it depicted, fused (see below).

Interactive, informal and open, the discussion aimed at ‘creating a safe space’ to discuss issues as sensitive as sexism in science, at work and in life. And other forms of discrimination too. Some of the feedback received highlighted the importance of dialogue:

“Having a place to talk about situations like this is key”; “I’m glad to see such discussions happening at SIB”; “At that time I did not know what to do and who to talk to, and I’m pleased we’re having this discussion today”.

Even though the movie’s focus was on scientists in academia and life at universities, which can differ from the environment found at SIB, it enabled discussion of several topics that are shared between the academic and private sector, and to welcome testimonials from a range of employees, scientists and others:

  • How to identify situations of sexism, and inappropriate behaviour in general: it is very common not to realize or notice such situations, and that is the problem with systematic bias;
  • How to (re)act as a by-stander and become an active ally: how often have we witnessed someone being bullied or harassed in a meeting for instance, not knowing how to deal with it? One shared experience showed how positive an impact it can have to simply approach the person, telling them that we observed something was wrong, and asking them if they needed support of any kind;
  • How to recognize and fight biases; and the importance of role models and representation in changing mentalities and culture, and creating an environment that is attractive and safe for future generations, in particular in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field.

Take-home message: it is both through data (such as that provided in the movie, or obtained through surveys, and research) and the sharing of individual experiences which would otherwise go unnoticed, that awareness can be raised and future situations prevented.

No kind of discrimination is tolerated at SIB, and while policies are in place to back this up (Policies on Conflict resolution and Personal dignity), everyone should feel free to address unfair/inappropriate situations: there are many ways to do so, in a human and proportionate way.

The resources that were shared during the discussion are available here, to explore the topic further: