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  • By: Letizia Diamante
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 19 August 2021
  • By: Letizia Diamante
  • Graphene Flagship
  • Publishing date: 19 August 2021

Meet European Commission’s Mina Stareva at the free Diversity Session during Graphene Week 2021

Diversity matters: Nourishing an inclusive consortium on the road to a bright future

Diversity opens the door to a broader range of talent, encouraging the sharing of new ideas and experiences, and providing insight into the needs and motivations of an increasingly multicultural world.  

For our annual session dedicated to diversity during Graphene Week, we have invited Mina Stareva, the Head of the Gender Equality Sector in DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission. She will speak about the EU support for gender and diversity in research and innovation. This Diversity in Graphene event and the other talks on the Graphene Week Inspiration Day, 20 September 2021, are free of charge and open to anybody within and beyond the Graphene Flagship. Register here.  

During that event, we will also open the registrations for the second Graphene Flagship Mentoring Programme: anyone who is involved in the Graphene Flagship and 2D-EPL is welcomed to register as mentor or mentee. Launched in September 2020, the programme aims to provide new opportunities for networking and improve career prospects by connecting experienced scientists with emerging scientists in the early stages of their career. 

Mina Stareva's portrait photo
Women in Graphene event at Graphene Week

Diversity in Graphene gives all underrepresented people – anyone with an interest in graphene, layered materials, the physical sciences or the Graphene Flagship – a platform from which to dive off and explore! 

“Our diversity-positive attitude is reflected by our Women in Graphene initiative – a series of events tailored to women scientists in the Graphene Flagship. Women in Graphene ran every year and sought to encourage women and girls to study and work in science.”

Inclusive from the start 

Our diversity-positive attitude is reflected by our Women in Graphene initiative – a series of events tailored to women scientists in the Graphene Flagship. Women in Graphene ran every year and sought to encourage women and girls to study and work in science. Featuring exciting talks from prominent women inside the Graphene Flagship, like Annick Loiseau and Mar García-Hernández, as well as external speakers like the European Commission’s Emelie Kletcha, the initiative ran from 2015 to 2020 and was very well-received. We considered it a resounding success.  

In 2020, we decided that our initiative had the potential to be even more inclusive. So, in April of the same year, we expanded and rebranded Women in Graphene to become Diversity in Graphene – a broader initiative to celebrate diversity, build a welcoming community and raise awareness for all underrepresented groups in all STEM fields, but in particular those in the graphene and layered materials community. Notably, Diversity in Graphene continues to support gender diversity and commemorates the many achievements of our women scientists.  

Diversity in Graphene was launched at the Graphene for Research, Innovation and Collaboration event in September 2020 during a session entitled ‘Diversity brings us together’ – the Graphene Flagship’s most-attended diversity event, with 130 attendees from over 30 countries. The session featured a talk from Anne Goldberg, member of the Graphene Flagship’s Strategic Advisory Council, on women’s perspectives in materials science, alongside a well-received panel discussion and a presentation from Cinzia Casiraghi on the focus issue "Women's Perspectives in Materials Science: 2D Materials,” published in JPhys. Materials (IoP). 

Engaging girls in science at the EU research and innovation days

Making strides 

Diversity in Graphene includes an annual career event in March and a networking event during the annual Graphene Week in September. We created a mentoring programme to connect emerging underrepresented scientists with established ones in the Graphene Flagship, to foster personal development and growth in our younger generation. We also set up an advisory group to further discuss related issues and strategies to promote diversity.  

Furthermore, we strongly encourage diversity in all of our publications, we have dedicated social media channels for Diversity in Graphene and a dedicated newsletter. In addition, we also support events from our members and partners, like CARLA, a two-year Horizon 2020 EU-funded project organised by Graphene Flagship partner ICFO to host diverse ‘career camps’ for underrepresented scientists working on photonics. 

Diversity goes digital 

The coronavirus pandemic does not stand in the way of the Graphene Flagship celebrating diversity. Although the in-person 2020 Women in Graphene career event was cancelled to keep everyone safe from the virus, we were quick to come up with an alternative. For the first time ever, we held the Women in Graphene career event in a fully interactive three-dimensional world provided by Virtway Events 

The event saw over 70 attendees, well in-line with our previous in-person Women in Graphene events. The delegates attended talks in the virtual auditorium and chatted with each other in our networking sessions, which aimed to mimic a real-life conference. Hosting the event online gave us a broader reach than ever, with delegates from as far afield as India joining the fray. Not only this, but students and early-career researchers, who may have otherwise struggled to secure funding for travel and accommodation, were able to join for free from the comfort of their own home.  

The speakers included endurance athlete Laura Kennington and prominent women scientists like Katarina Boustedt, original creator of the Women in Graphene initiative. For the first time, we had a student speaker – Bonnie Tsim from Graphene Flagship partner University of Manchester – and Sue Hewitt from Springboard Consultancy led an interactive negotiation training session.  

In 2021, we organised a Wiki Edit-A-Thon in collaboration with Jess Wade (Imperial College London) to improve the visibility of women and members of underrepresented communities on the biggest online encyclopaedia in the world, namely Wikipedia.  

Our latest career event took place online in March 2021 and featured 10 impressive speakers. We explored traditional and alternative career paths in science and technology with Ana Helman (European Science Foundation) and Polina Kuzhir (University of Eastern Finland, Belarusian State University). Then Marie Louise Sunde (Equality Check) and Maria Sangiuliano (SmartVenice) presented their findings on equality at work in companies and academic institutions. At the session “Study Struggle Succeed”, we had a friendly chat with an international group of scientists at different career stages: Liam Bird (University of Cambridge), Sonia Estrade (University of Barcelona), Camilla Coletti (IIT), Tapani Ryhanen (Emberion) and entrepreneur Beenish Siddique (AEH Innovative Hydrogel Limited). They discussed their experiences, challenges and aspirations. We also invited Sue Hewitt (Springboard Consultancy) to provide us with some useful strategies to stay productive while working from home. 

Networking at a Diversity in Graphene event

Would you like to get involved or receive news about the Diversity in Graphene initiative:  

We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming free diversity session (Graphene Week, Inspiration Day, 20 September) and future Diversity in Graphene events! 

“The Diversity in Graphene initiative was publicly launched during the Graphene for Research, Innovation and Collaboration online event on 24 September 2020. With over 130 attendees from across 30 countries, it was the most-attended diversity event in the Graphene Flagship so far.”

Author bio

Letizia Diamante
Letizia Diamante

Science Writer and Coordinator of the 'Diversity in Graphene' initiative.