Saturday, May 25Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Diversity in STEM

Rida Haider

The recent BLM movement raised awareness on various levels about the unfairness that exists in our society towards individuals of a certain representation. While the movement stemmed out of an unpleasant series of events, it left a question mark and raised eyebrows about the importance of diversity in a workforce, especially labs and universities. 

Being a student who studies this subject, I believe it is quite important to talk about the discrepancy in the scientific workforce, especially the importance of diversity. In my opinion, sectors of science dealing with scientists should encourage participation from as much a diverse participation as possible. It is the need of the hour to build a system where representation is diverse and an equal chance is given to scientific minds beyond the realms of their caste, age, sex and race.

Diversity does not only breed diversity in terms of participation, but also helps in offering new solutions, hence improving the quality of life and that of the society. For example, any of the major diseases which the world has witnessed today can be divided into temperate (Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis, Tetanus, Pertussi) as well as tropical (Cholera, Dengue, Hemorrhagic fever, Vivax Malaria).

Today’s scientific minds succeeded in eradicating a few of these diseases, however, there is a need to improve the research opportunities which can only be attained if there is a wider participation from ethnic groups. For example, utilization of their antibodies for testing in order to find better alternatives to improve the health of the individuals. Statistically, reports have shown that the representation of minority ethnic groups needs to be more than double to match the group’s overall share in the US itself in order to boost greater recruitment opportunities. 

As a student too, I believe there needs to be a greater representation of diverse scientific minds in order to boost their confidence and create a culture of a collective participation. In our university itself, I witnessed the gender-neutral toilet system, extended support for mental health, a host of groups and societies focusing on the underrepresented and minority groups, and schemes to encourage their participation in various firms such as EY and PWC. 

We as a society need to make small changes to ensure such a practice is not encouraged on a regular basis. We should begin with improving the selection criteria and advocate advertisements through which candidates feel welcomed and not overwhelmed. A lot of STEM degree holders experience this disproportionately to the criteria laid out by the selection and recruitment committees. A recruitment team should consist of people from diverse backgrounds in order to establish an environment where candidates feel comfortable.