• Kirsten standing next to the Congress poster
02 Nov | Guest Blog | Diversity & Inclusion

Take-home messages from the STEMM Equality Congress 2018

"The problem with working in an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion context is that often it seems like an uphill struggle - no matter the progress that has been made, there is still so much further to go.

Nowhere was this more obvious than the STEMM Equality Congress in Amsterdam this October, with the majority of talks spending time reframing the issues that those of us in the area are all too familiar with. But learning that the issues tend to be the same across the (international) board was actually oddly heartening, and served to reinforce the idea that we are getting somewhere, even if progress is slow."

"What struck me most was that from the North American perspective, equality was about race, whereas from the European perspective equality referred to gender, but the excellent Keynote by Dr Shirley Malcom (Head of Education and Human Resource Programs at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and the Co-Chair of the Gender Advisory Board of the UN Commission on Science & Technology for Development) managed to bridge this gap – introducing much-needed discussion about intersectionality between the two.

"There was also a large focus on the ‘empowerment’ of women. I have often found that this kind of rhetoric seems to ‘slip’ somewhat, so that the message appears to be more about changing perceived problems with women themselves, rather than the systemic issues that lead to such a perception in the first place. This was well addressed by Marije Cornelissen’s (UN Women National Committee, Netherlands) session in which she discussed how to apply women’s empowerment principles to the workplace, while also including men – a theme echoed by Caroline Pickard. André du Plessis (ILGA) also gave a timely reminder that gender is not a binary construct, and that even in some of the most ‘tolerant’ places, there is still insidious discrimination against LGBT+ people.

"My second, and arguably most important, realisation at the Conference was that almost all efforts to realise change concentrate on adults, which means that we are expecting people of all genders to ignore everything they have been told explicitly and implicitly throughout their lives, and directly challenge their own ways of thinking. If we are trying to combat a lifetime of entrenched ideas, a twenty minute online course just isn’t going to cut it, and Prof. Curtis Rice (Head of Norway’s Committee on Gender Balance and Diversity in Research) gave some judicious advice on measuring the efficacy of EDI initiatives so they can be applied more effectively in other settings.

"It seems the take-home message was that there are no silver bullets or magical elixirs to fix the systemic issues that we are struggling against, but we can take hope from the fact that there are now so many tried and tested ways to make a difference, and so many of us that are committed to doing just that."

Dr Kirsten McKenzie, School of Psychology, University of Lincoln

STEMM Equality Congress 2018

The STEMM Equality Congress (SEC) is a 2-day congress hosted annually by Science Impact Ltd. This year's Congress was held in Amsterdam (11–12 October 2018). 

Building on some of the key themes and issues presented during the 2017 congress, 2018 focussed on inter-sectionality, sharing success stories from around the world, practical measures that are working for other organisations, local challenges that organisations are facing, the tools they are using to address these challenges and how these tools can be applied in other countries and regions. in 2018 special attention was given to presentations from emerging countries and the latest themes.

EGC - Proud sponsors

The EGC was a Gold Sponsor for the STEMM Equality Congress this year.  Three of the EGC team attended the Congress, along with our invited guest, Dr Kirsten McKenzie, from the School of Psychology. Prof Belinda Colston, Director of the EGC, gave a presentation on 'Aspiring for change: the need for a paradigm shift in our EDI strategies', and at the EGC stand, we hosted the 'Mind the Gap' game - co-created by Prof Antonella De Angeli (School of Computer Science, Lincoln) and Max Willis (Universita degli Studi di Trento) to highlight gender inequalities in IT - which generated lots of interest among the delegates.