The annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February is an opportunity for global reflection, in addition to our local and daily efforts, on the ongoing challenges of fostering gender balance in STEM and on furthering steps towards impactful and tangible results.
Click here to see a clever, poignant animation of the experiences of Purl, a pink ball of yarn, who joins a homogenous, dark-suited, male-dominated workplace called “BRO”.
How many of us, like Purl, have tried to blend into the environment in order to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance and to hide our visible and/or invisible diversity just to fit in?
I relate to Purl: as a young child of inter-ethnic parents, I consciously and unconsciously played the “white-parent” card to blend in with my school and social surroundings, where I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. I hid my unusual middle name starting with a “Z”; spicy meals at home were a secret. It was easier, more comfortable and … limiting.
In my experience, when an underrepresented group such as women in STEM reaches a presence of around 25%, the individuals within that group are already less likely to seek to blend in with their surroundings. At work, they are more likely to invest fully in their role and to reach out to and support others like them.
Our "25 by '25" strategy, and your commitment to it, is a unique opportunity for CERN to boost gender diversity in STEM. The visible and audible support from our Management for the initiative and the engagement of our colleagues in implementing it is very encouraging. So what else can you do?
Well, many point to an insufficiently diverse external recruitment pool, yet our students, graduates and trainees form an invaluable talent pipeline inside CERN: our home-grown recruitment pool, from which a significant proportion of staff and fellows are selected.
To all hiring managers of students, graduates and trainees in STEM: the more gender-diverse your selection decisions, the more diverse the talent pipeline for future STEM fellows and staff will be.
To all personnel in STEM: reach out to the underrepresented gender in your team or group. Actively include your and their diverse perspectives in your projects and meetings.
Diversity is a stated CERN value. In all its forms, diversity creates excitement and innovation. So, let’s mix it up – in STEM and beyond!