On a mission to increase diversity and inclusion in the world of science

In late March, Discovery released an advertisement showcasing a montage of many of its science and adventure-focused programs with one glaring omission: women.

The ad represents a systemic issue that is all too noticeable in science, and one requiring action and reform. A group of graduate students at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry are looking to provide just that, embarking on a mission to increase diversity in the world of science by founding the London Pod of 500 Women Scientists.

This local chapter joins a growing network of participants that originated in late 2016 under the guidance of four women at the University of Colorado Boulder. In publishing an open letter following the 2016 United States election—a period wrought with anti-science and anti-diversity rhetoric—the scientists sought to earn the signatures of 500 people who supported their ideals and vision. This goal was almost instantly surpassed, and the group recognized their opportunity to impact real change in the scientific community.

500 Women Scientists now boasts more than 20,000 members in 100+ countries, each working toward empowering women to reach their full potential in science, increasing scientific literacy through public engagement, and advocating for science and equality in the broader community.

The organization believes that real change stems from small, focused groups, and local pods—like the newest London edition—allow issues to be tackled at a community level.

Led by graduate trainees Jacqueline Dron, Allison Dilliott, Jessica Rodgers and Rebecca Sullivan, the London Pod will serve as a way to connect female scientists across the city of London and to foster a value of diversity, accessibility and inclusion in STEM overall.

“We started the London chapter of 500 Women Scientists first and foremost to help like-minded women in London connect and collaborate,” said Dron, a fourth-year PhD Candidate in Biochemistry. “But the true goal of our chapter, and of 500 Women Scientists as a whole, is to show how increasing diversity and inclusion in our field will make a positive impact on the entire scientific community.”

The group hopes that by promoting the ideas and values of 500 Women Scientists, the community will begin to erode common practices of gender-based discrimination in science that place women at a disadvantage.

Many efforts and initiatives currently exist to encourage women and young girls to pursue a career in STEM. Although recruiting women into the field is an issue, it’s only part of the problem; these talented individuals need to be retained once they have joined.

While the organization serves to impact change for women in science, the London Pod founders encourage the support of both men and women from any background. They say it is important that inclusive science is a cause supported by everyone, and having allies across disciplines will help ensure that positive, noticeable change will continue to happen.

“We’re really looking toward the future,” said Dron. “We want to see better diversity in our field, we want to see strong female leadership in science, and we want to see fairness, equality, and accessibility become a common theme across all of STEM.”

If you are looking to learn more about 500 Women Scientists in London, you can search for the pod on the organization’s website or on Twitter at @500WS_LondonON.