The event, which coincides with the Pride in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) LGBTQ+ Day, aims to raise awareness of the community and its needs with a programme that includes keynote speakers and seminars, a communal art activity and ending with a social networking reception.
Emilie Knight and Charlotte Owen from the John Innes Centre and Sam Rowe from the Earlham Institute have organised the event. They are all members of the working group that represents the LGBTQ+ community at the Earlham Institute, Quadram Institute, The Sainsbury Laboratory and the John Innes Centre at Norwich Research Park.
Over the past three years, they have had representation at events such as Norwich Pride and the Norwich Science Festival and hosted online seminars on important topics such as gender identity, trans awareness, the importance of language, allyship and intersectionality. They have also been central in introducing a number of positive changes at the four research institutes.
Emilie said: “As well as raising awareness of our community and the issues we face, our working group has looked to address some practical things that make life easier for everyone. For instance, we have looked at some of the policies of our institutes and made changes such as adding pronouns to email signatures and profiles and having unisex toilets.
“We have made a good amount of progress recently thanks to the receptive attitude of our directors and colleagues and a desire to accommodate the changes that will help our members feel more comfortable in their work environments with the aim of having a consistent approach across the institutes.”
One of the key goals of the LGBTQ+ working group is its outreach programme. Earlier this year, it produced a series of posters in collaboration with Ro Procter of the Norwich Science Festival and funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry, as part of a Pride in STEM exhibition that profiled many of the LGBTQ+ people at the research institutes working in science. The message “You can be a LGBTQ+ scientist” was one that they have tried to convey to youngsters who might be considering a career in science or science research but are unsure about acceptance.
Sam said: “The idea of the posters was to showcase real people and the jobs that they hold in science at Norwich Research Park. Young people need role models and mentoring, so it’s very important for them to see that there are lots of LGBTQ+ people working in science on their doorstep.”
The poster exhibition has been touring many schools in Norfolk, including the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form in Norwich. Caroline Nair, who teaches biology at the school, said: “We are thrilled to have the Pride in STEM poster display at Sir Isaac Newton for the second time.
“It is really important to hold a mirror up to our students and dispel the stereotypes of those who work in science. The diversity shown in the posters allows students to see themselves following similar pathways. Not only do the posters highlight the LGBTQ+ community, but they also show each person’s career route and many work locally which raises ambitions for all students. Reactions have been very positive – students and staff agree that the scientists are great role models and it is good to see what they can aspire to in their futures.”
Roz Bird, CEO of Anglia Innovation Partnership, the organisation that manages Norwich Research Park, said: “Inclusivity is high on my list of priorities when it comes to promoting Norwich Research Park. Our campus institutions attract a wide range of people and the science and business activity are all the better for this.
“Research shows that working environments that are fit for the 21st century are more successful as they can attract and retain the best people and serve their customers and clients more effectively. The Norwich Research Park campus must reflect the world in which we live to serve it most effectively. We want our campus to be a community of mutual regard where diversity is welcomed and celebrated.”
Image: Charlie James designed the poster campaign artwork for the LGBTQ+ in Science event at Norwich Research Park. Image credit: Charlie James