Uncovering gender distribution in leadership positions
Ground-breaking scientific innovations do not arise on their own; they are often a result of collaborations between people with a range of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. Research suggests there are poorer degree outcomes for black people in STEM higher education, racial inequalities in science funding by the UK’s research councils, only 22% of C-suite positions are filled by women and nearly 30% of LGBT scientists had considered leaving the workforce because of a hostile climate. Equally, there is strong evidence that diverse teams are more productive and companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean.
MedCity already considers diversity and inclusion in its programmes and projects, but we are actively working to develop a cohesive strategy that is embedded in everything we do. As part of this strategy development, we are currently working with UCL Arts and Sciences BASc undergraduates on a Student Consultancy EDI Project, which aims to gain a clearer picture of gender distributions among people in leadership positions in academic and research institutions. The project will be looking at any correlations between the investment outcomes of these academic and research institutions and the gender distribution of people in leadership positions.
We invited the team to introduce themselves, and share with us their motivations for undertaking the project, and what inclusivity means to them.
Q. Please tell us a bit about yourself: your background and study speciality at UCL
Jae: I am a first-gen university student from Hong Kong and study Arts and Sciences, with a focus on Art History and Philosophy.
Cleo: I grew up in South London and am also the first in my family to attend university. I have a background of working in mental health and now study Arts and Sciences as a mature student. My dissertation is focusing on tackling barriers to accessing healthcare for forcibly displaced refugees and asylum seekers and the use of the arts in treating trauma.
Mary (she/they): I am a Filipino-British student from Brighton, currently studying Arts and Sciences with focuses in media studies, fine art, and computer science. On the side, I’m the president of UCL’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Society, which has helped inform my dissertation on fandom and the commodification of play in Dungeons & Dragons shows.
Flynn (he/they): I am a Taiwanese-German Arts and Science student with a focus on cultures. I grew up in Germany, moving to the UK for my undergraduate. In my studies I focus on the way gender informs different disciplines, and my dissertation deals with Perceptions of Gender Deviance in Early Modern Europe.
Q. Why did you want to do this project and what will you each be focusing on?
We wanted to do this project because we believe that it’s an essential point of interrogation in terms of gaining a more holistic understanding of gender disparities in the life sciences sector in London. That gender imbalance in the work force is a massive problem is common knowledge, however, it seems ever more crucial to have diverse teams and leadership in the life sciences, because those affected by the work are inherently diverse.
We have divided the work equally amongst each other, so that everyone can bring in their expertise to all the different parts of the project. We have worked on automating the data collection process, as well as presenting a literature review on the current situation of life science leadership and, thus, the importance of our project. We will work together to come up with concise ways of presenting our findings to reach a diverse audience and potential strategies to create a more diverse discipline.
Q. What does inclusivity mean to each of you?
Jae: To me, inclusivity means listening to the voices of those who are marginalised and creating new spaces in which everyone can have equal opportunities.
Cleo: To me, inclusivity involves collaboratively creating accessible spaces in which the unique contributions and needs of each member of society are valued.
Mary: Inclusivity means actively working against structural inequalities to provide marginalised communities previously unavailable opportunities.
Flynn: Inclusivity creates the opportunities for marginalised communities to tell their own stories and create their own spaces and policies, improving quality of life for everyone.
Q. Why is it important to have diversity in teams (both in life sciences and general)?
Diversity, both in background and skills ensures that problems are solved without leaving anyone behind. Having different perspectives to pull from ensures that nothing is overlooked in the process.
This is crucial in the life sciences as different people will have different struggles to fight and needs to be met. Therefore, if the teams making the decisions for everyone else are not diverse, it becomes simply impossible for everyone to be taken into consideration.
This applies to other areas of life as well. The inherent truth in everything that we do, is that it is influenced by our pasts and will influence futures. If only a limited amount of pasts are taken into consideration, the future we work towards will always be limited until more people from different backgrounds can have a say.