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Diversity, equity and inclusion in the sciences and beyond

Friday 22 January 2021
Diversity, equity and inclusion in the sciences and beyond

The Diversity & Inclusion Symposium has become an important moment for us to reflect on our ambitions in the area of diversity and inclusion, come together as a community, and discuss how to move forward together. As indicated in our policy plan, which was published this summer, as an institution, we not only want to reflect the diversity of society, but also need to think critically about what it takes to offer a safe, and inclusive learning and work environment to all staff and students. This means having a critical look at our curricula, teaching and hiring practices, and everyday interactions, and increasing our awareness of the diversity of experiences and perspectives which enrich our institution.

Diversity and inclusion are important regardless of our work area or field. Hosted by the Faculty of Science, this year’s symposium will focus on central questions facing us as teachers, students, staff and administrators in translating our ambitions in the area of diversity and inclusion into practice. What does inclusive teaching mean – and how can inclusion be applied to subjects such as physics? What measures can translate the ambition of more diversity in all positions, and in particular leadership positions, into actual change? What do students, staff and administrators need in order to take the necessary steps to achieve a more diverse and inclusive learning and working environment? What can we do, as a community, to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in our teaching and learning environment? 


We are honored to be able to welcome the following keynote speakers to help us address these questions:

  • Ijeoma Uchegbu, Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanoscience at University College London
  • Kerstin Perez, Associate Professor of Physics, MIT
  • Edray Goins, Professor of Mathematics at Pomona College


Anoushka Laheij

What is inclusion? Opening and welcome
Diversity and Inclusion in Leiden: Where do we stand? Interview with Vice-Rector Hester Bijl and Diversity Officer Aya Ezawa
Ijeoma Uchegbu (UCL): Moving the Needle on Race Equality
Kerstin Perez (MIT): The Power (and Responsibility) of Teaching for Retention of Underrepresented Students

1: Ijeoma Uchegbu: Equality and Diversity in UK Academia

There are currently about 200,000 academics working in the UK, with roughly equal participation between men and women (women make up 44% of the academic staff workforce). About 12% of academic members of staff are from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds, a level of participation that is roughly similar to the proportion of the UK population that is Black, Asian and minority ethnic – about 13%.  However, when it comes to achieving the top job of professor, of which there are approximately 20,000 in the UK, Black, Asian and minority ethnic professors are underrepresented at just 9% of the professorship, and women at just 25%. Black academics make up 2% of the UK academic workforce, but there are just 35 Black and female professors in the UK: about 0.2% of the total number of professors in the UK. This workforce segregation for women and ethnic minorities feeds into salary levels: in 2018/ 2019 25% of male academics in UK universities earned above £60,000, while 15% of female academics and 10% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic academics earned the same amount. It is clear that there are real impediments to achieving higher academic jobs for women and Black, Asian and minority ethnic academic members of staff within the UK. This results in university decision-making that is driven by a narrow homogenous group with limited diversity. Ultimately, outcomes would be improved if there was real diversity in decision-making. A number of studies demonstrate that diverse decision-making leads to superior outcomes. A further driver for diversity at the senior grades is the overrepresentation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students in our universities: a quarter of UK-domiciled students attending UK universities come from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Our work to improve diversity at UCL will be showcased in the workshop and some learnings may be applicable to the Netherlands.

2: Kerstin Perez: Classroom Practices for Retention of Underrepresented Students

The persistent myth that underrepresented students leave science because they cannot keep up with rigorous standards reflects an unwillingness to grapple with the truth that it is we, the instructors, who must change. A rich body of research has shown that a feeling of cultural dissonance, not a lack of ability or interest, is what prompts students to leave undergraduate programmes in STEM. In this workshop, participants will develop interventions tailored to their own courses with the aim of improving students’ sense of belonging within the class environment and retention in a STEM major. The focus will be on small, manageable changes that can be immediately implemented, and that have been validated by research to increase retention of underrepresented students.

3: Caroline Pickard: Implicit Bias workshop – work and private life in times of corona

Implicit bias describes the attitudes or associations we hold about individuals or groups of people which unconsciously affect our understanding and influence the actions and decisions we take in the workplace. This workshop will explore how implicit bias can impact everyday practice at the University and will allow participants to enter into a dialogue about how diversity and bias plays out for our daily interactions. How, for example, do we negotiate care tasks and work at home and in our workplace during corona? How can we discuss these challenges with supervisors? This workshop will provide a first taste of a programme which has been developed for Leiden University and which is available to all interested units within the University. There will also be an opportunity to speak to the trainers.

4: Şeydâ Buurman-Kutsal: The anatomy of prejudice: Brown Eyes Blue Eyes

Brown Eyes Blue Eyes is an exercise in discrimination, originally developed in 1968 by Jane Elliott, a teacher from Iowa, US. Seyda Buurman-Kutsal will reveal the systems involved in exclusion, discrimination and racism within society and of course the microcosmos of a university. Participants will experience the mechanisms of exclusion, discrimination and racism and will discover how to enter into a learning dialogue. In the microcosmos that the exercise creates, participants will have the opportunity to broaden their understanding of the systematic nature of power and oppression, and its impact on our relationship with ourselves and others. The perspective of changemakers within the intercultural field will be questioned and felt emotionally. Buurman-Kutsal will also explore the problems of racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and ethnocentrism and our shared responsibility to illumine and eliminate them from ourselves and our environment. Participants will understand how to create and maintain an environment in which diversity is valued and inclusion is practised. Participants in this workshop may experience the kind of stress, that minorities experience on an everyday basis.


5. Edray Goins: The Souls of Black Folk: Notes from the Diary of a Black Mathematician

We are all familiar with the story of Katherine Johnson, one of the Hidden Figures in Margot Lee Shetterley’s eponymous text. Johnson was one of the few African American human computers who developed the mathematics which made John Glenn’s 1962 orbit of the Earth successful. At the same time, Vivienne Malone Mayes struggled to receive her doctorate in mathematics from the University of Texas. Although she was not allowed to teach classes or attend study groups because of her race, she would become the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics when she graduated in 1966. In this talk, we share stories of being Black in academia, provide some insight on the experiences of Black undergraduates in STEM and introduce some best practices for recruiting and retaining Black faculty.

6.  Panel discussion: COVID 19, diversity and inclusion: student experiences of online education

The same pandemic is affecting us all, but its impact varies depending on our personal situation. To be able to grasp the key issues facing the student community, the University conducted a survey on online education and COVID-19. Where do we stand now, and what needs to happen next? This panel will bring together the experiences and perspectives of students, lecturers, support staff and administrators to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on students and staff and how diversity and inclusion can be addressed in the context of online education.

7: The Practice of Inclusive Education

One of the key objectives of the diversity and inclusion work plan is to foster an inclusive learning environment. This requires reflection on the material we teach and our fields of research, as well as on how we approach diversity in the classroom. This panel introduces the initiatives of a growing community of lecturers in the area of inclusive education. Dr Francio Guadeloupe will introduce the topic by speaking about his practice of inclusive education at The University of Amsterdam. He will discuss his approach and what concrete steps can be taken to develop inclusive curricula and teaching. The session will also introduce a training programme on inclusive education which is being developed by the D&I Expertise Office and a forum that will provide scholars and teachers with a space and community where they can engage and collaborate in fostering an inclusive learning environment at Leiden University.  

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