The Graphene Flagship, one of the largest European research consortia, has launched a new inclusivity initiative. Diversity in Graphene builds on the success of the Graphene Flagship's Women in Graphene programme but aims to represent all underrepresented communities in science. Today, we want to highlight the importance of inclusivity in science by joining the celebrations of LGBTQ+ STEM Day.
Since 2015, the Graphene Flagship has run the very successful Women in Graphene initiative, with numerous well-attended events, both in person and online, aimed at challenging gender bias in science and providing a support network for professional development. Diversity in Graphene expands upon the remit of Women in Graphene to strive for the inclusion of all minority and marginalised groups, including people with disabilities, people of colour and the LGBT+ community.
Diversity in Graphene was officially launched at a specially dedicated event during the Graphene Flagship's annual conference last September, titled 'Diversity brings us together'.
Among other activities, the event included a panel discussion with scientists who actively support underrepresented groups in STEM. They shared their views and discussed strategies to foster an inclusive work environment.
"Often, the initiatives we see are about trying to change minorities to make them to fit into the systems we currently have, to make us function within a system that was designed by other people," observed panelist Rachel Oliver, leader of TIGERS, a group that campaigns for inclusivity in STEM. "Instead, I'd like to encourage change to the systems themselves to make them work for everybody."
Aitor V. Velasco is a founding member and director of education for PRISMA, a scientific association for LGBT+ equality in STEM. "Diverse groups have been known to do better, more impactful science. So, diversity benefits science, but this is only part of it. No matter who you are, you should have the right to work in equal conditions." He also remarked the extra hurdles faced by trans scientists: "They always have the worse part: 32% of transgender scientists have suffered exclusory or intimidating behaviour at work." This is a shame, since very few of them end up pursuing a scientific career, and "we keep losing them along the track." We still need initiatives like Diversity in Graphene and LGBTQ+ STEM Day to improve those numbers and learn how to better listen to underrepresented communities.
As its first action, Diversity in Graphene is setting up a pioneering mentorship programme to support professional growth in underrepresented groups. Open to anyone working within the Graphene Flagship, it will connect early career researchers and students with more experienced scientists, based on career goals, experiences, and availability.
Letizia Diamante, Leader of the Graphene Flagship's Diversity in Graphene initiative, adds: "The Graphene Flagship has a multitude of talented, hard-working people, and we hope that this initiative can help with their well-being and professional success."