Why are we doing this?

Just over two weeks ago, at the Alan Turing Institute, 40-50 diversity in STEM activists gathered for STEM Gamechangers. The idea behind the event was to gather lots of people in an inspiring setting, to come up with project ideas that could change the experience of STEM for under represented groups. Literally, we want to change the game. The room was full of excellent women scientists, scientists of colour, LGBT+ scientists, disabled scientists…

I was there with my women-in-tech hat on (to be honest, it’s a hat I rarely take off) but also with my mental health hat on. The mental health hat is a one I’ve been wearing for a while, but not in public. Indeed, STEM Gamechangers was the first time I spoke about my mental health in front of an audience, ever.

In conversation we realised that the difficulties we faced were overlapping and that there were things we could do which could make science better for women, LGBT+, people of colour, disabled people, people being bullied, people being harassed… Indeed, all people. This could be ambitious. Game changing.

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Me, at the STEM Gamechangers event, making some kind of very important point

The main thing is to remember scientists are humans.

One way we can reaffirm this is by telling our stories. It’s hard to understand what it’s like to be the only woman in a class of 40; it can be hard to remember what it’s like to be new to teaching; if you don’t have to hide your personal life then it can be difficult to imagine the effect this has on our LGBT+ colleagues. Through sharing and reading each others stories we can understand the experience of others better.

Another way we can do this is to be more kind. Science can be brutal. We scientists sometimes don’t do ourselves (or our peers) any favours. Working long hours, expecting others to do the same, competing instead of collaborating… We could make the whole process of doing science so much nicer if we were just a bit more kind.

We – the Scientists Are Human team – have written a manifesto which sums up our thoughts on this. Please read it. I think it’s great.

If we could all follow that, science would be a better place for all of us.

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