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Towards equality in science: the Beacon Equality and Diversity Lecture 2020

Posted on 9 March 2020

Dr Jess Wade gave the Department of Chemistry’s annual Beacon Equality and Diversity Lecture, inspiring a packed audience towards equality in science.

This year’s lecture coincided with International Women’s Day on March 9th, which this year encouraged us to work towards creating a gender equal world (#EachforEqual). 

Jess is a physicist at Imperial College London, where she researches polymer-based organic light-emitting diodes.  She is widely known for the work she does on public engagement in science, and her campaigning work to promote women in science and engineering. She is particularly well known for her work tackling gender bias in Wikipedia, and has written over 900 biographies about women scientists on Wikipedia.  Her work has been acknowledged by a 2019 British Empire Medal, and by being one of Nature’s 2018 top 10 people who matter in science.

Left to right: Dr Caroline Dessent, Chair of the Chemistry Department Equality and Diversity group, Dr Jess Wade and Dr Leonie Jones Employability and Diversity Officer.

Jess gave an inspiring and entertaining talk that included examples of how attitudes towards women’s education as chemists have changed over time. She encouraged us to use scientifically tested approaches to inform our approach to Equality and Diversity, and suggested a number of practical areas to focus on, including provision of clear guidance for reporting sexual harassment, encouraging lecturers to use diverse examples of scientists to illustrate their teaching, and lobbying funding organisations and high-impact scientific journals to make their practices more gender neutral.

Dr Caroline Dessent, Chair of the Department’s Equality & Diversity group said “This was an amazing talk.  I think everyone came away thinking how important it is to celebrate the achievements of women scientists, as well as BME scientists. We should all reflect on ways to promote the scientific achievements and career stories of a diverse range of scientists.”  As part of the Equality & Diversity day, Jess also met with a group of early career researchers for a question and answer session. 

Dr Leonie Jones, the Department’s Employability and Diversity Officer, led the session and commented “We had lively discussions about everything from short-term contracts to gendered Lego. It was fantastic for our PhD students and postdocs to meet with Jess and discuss how we can all help to make science more accessible”.

More information about Equality in the Department of Chemistry, and our commitment to the Athena SWAN Charter can be found on our Equality and Diversity webpages. Chemistry at York was the first academic department in the UK to receive the Athena SWAN Gold award, held continuously since 2007.