By Amy MacLaren, Director of External Relations

Yesterday, we had a productive meeting of the British Science Association’s (BSA) EDI Advisory Group – one of the Group’s regular quarterly meetings. At the start, we invited each of our expert members to give a short reflection; their take on the challenges for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in 2021 and what we should be thinking about in this space.

The item resulted in an honest, emotional and powerful discussion.

The Group reflected on the fact that we were meeting on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. They talked about their sense of a growing undercurrent of public weariness – perhaps even ‘compassion fatigue’, someone suggested – about the state of the world: Israel/Palestine, the shooting of Sasha Johnson in London, unrest in Northern Ireland; on top of the COVID-19 crisis still ravaging many parts of the world. Members reported feeling concern for people and communities who have experienced a hugely challenging year, and those still living with uncertainty and fear.

We also discussed the fact that the events of a year ago sparked a positive conversation in many organisations and institutions about change, but that in some organisations this has perhaps resulted in a “diversity for diversity’s sake” approach – of prioritising representation, but not a way of addressing the real issues at hand in terms of contributing to genuine systemic change too.

I hope our Advisory Group and our staff team would agree that the BSA has tried to maintain its momentum on EDI action and change within our organisation over the last year, while navigating the challenges of the pandemic.

And yet, today feels like an appropriate moment to reflect on the fact that we (like many organisations) are on a journey. A journey towards:

  • identifying barriers to equality in our organisation;
  • ensuring our programmes are contributing to tackling structural issues that mean that science is not as relevant, representative or connected to society as it might be; and
  • leading responsibly (and – as a (White, Bi, non-disabled, cis woman) senior leader of the organisation – understanding my privilege and using it for good) through sharing our journey, listening to and learning from others, and encouraging those who are at an earlier stage of their journey to us.

As the Group members advised, it is important that we “continue the conversation and maintain momentum” while creating space for reflection, being okay with taking time to get change right (“go slow to go fast”), being sensitive to the moment, and supporting one another.