Equality, diversity and inclusion
The Faculty of Natural Sciences (FoNS) at Imperial College London creates world-changing impact through its science. We realise that this can only be delivered by creating and nurturing an inclusive and respectful community. We believe that the health and well-being of our students and staff will be enhanced by developing a culture where everybody is valued, and that bullying and discriminatory behaviour have no place in modern society.
FoNS is committed to identifying and addressing structures and practices that maintain inequality and supporting members of our community encountering the barriers that discrimination presents. We partner with others at the College committed to taking positive action to improve the opportunities and experiences of all members of our community.
The Faculty EDI Committee is comprised of representatives from all departments, the Faculty Management Committee, the Faculty EDI Champion and the Faculty EDI coordinator. We work together to realise our EDI strategy and train students and staff on awareness and robust interventions. Our EDI strategy is aligned with the Imperial College London EDI Strategy and values. Guided by this, we are working towards a more equitable and congenial future for both science and society.
Strategic support and leadership
The Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy Group at Imperial is chaired by the Provost on behalf of the College council and is responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction in relation to EDI matters affecting staff and students. In August 2017, the role of Assistant Provost (EDI) was created to direct the College's EDI strategy, and this post is currently held by Professor Stephen Curry, Professor of Structural Biology within the Faculty of Natural Sciences.
The College created its first EDI Strategy in October 2018 to bring focus and coherence to Imperial's equality, diversity and inclusion approaches. The EDI Strategy Group is supported by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum (EDIF), whose members are drawn from across the College community and include staff and students. The Forum serves as a listening post to capture and discuss all manner of EDI issues, and produce proposals for action that can be presented to the EDI Strategy Group.
The College is supported by the EDI Centre, made up of staff members from across the College. The Centre advises, supports and provides training for teams and departments at Imperial and reports to HR Deputy Director (Organisational Development and Inclusion).
Imperial was a founding member of the Athena Swan charter in 2005, achieving a Bronze institutional award in 2009, followed by Silver in 2012 which was successfully renewed in 2022. The Athena Committee was established in 2013 to champion and oversee the advancement of gender equality at the institutional level. Working under the directorship of the Assistant Provost (EDI), it ensures that changes are made to practice and culture to enable departments to gain, or retain, Athena SWAN awards, increasing the award level where possible.
The Disability Action Committee (DAC) was formed in 2010 to oversee and disability equality for staff and students, as recommended by the EDI Strategy Group. In addition, the DAC considers ways to improve accessibility throughout the College. This includes the support of the ABLE network, set up to support staff with disabilities. The Calibre Programme has been developed as a leadership development programme for disabled staff. The College is also a Disability Confident Leader.
Imperial signed the pledge in 2014 to demonstrate our commitment to ending discrimination and breaking silence around mental health issues. In 2018, Imperial signed the Charter for Employers who are positive about Mental Health, one element of the Mindful Employer initiative.
Networks and programmes
Imperial As One was launched in 2005 as an advisory group of minority ethnic staff to advise the College on the support and promotion of an inclusive workplace culture. IMPACT (Imperial Positive About Cultural Talent) is a talent development programme for BAME staff, which was named as a finalist at the Race Equality Awards 2016. In 2018, Imperial became a member of the Race Equality Charter, achieving a Bronze institutional award in 2021.
Imperial 600 was established in 2006 to support LGBT staff, while Imperial College Union's IQ network provides confidential support to LGBTQ+ students, and act as gateway to existing College and union services. Imperial is part of Stonewall's Diversity Champions Programme, through which Stonewall works with organisations and employers to ensure LGBT staff are accepted without exception in the workplace.
All new staff arriving at Imperial are introduced to Imperial Expectations - seven statements describing the College's behavioural principles for all staff, designed to promote a positive working environment, including EDI requirements. Imperial offers equality training on many topics, including: Harassment and Bullying, Disability, Mental Health, Unconscious Bias, and being an effective Active Bystander.
The College also have an Access and Participation plan for student recruitment aiming to widen participation through a series of outreach programmes, and targeted deployment of initiatives for students from disadvantaged groups.
The College organises specific diversity events, such as Women@Imperial Week, Diverse@Imperial Week, celebration of Black History Month, and Disability History Month.
Imperial is also committed to progressive policies that enhance inclusion, including:
- shared parental leave available for same sex couples;
- a trans policy;
- development programmes specifically aimed at women (Springboard) and men;
- dyslexia support;
- comprehensive mental health and wellbeing support;
- Harassment support contacts;
- Staff Supporters;
- grants for carers to attend conferences;
- family and personal leave in addition to annual leave, including study leave and emergency family leave, part-time and flexible working opportunities;
- and award-winning family-friendly initiatives.
Imperial College London is one of the first Universities in the UK to implement and start using Textio, an augmented writing service designed to identify language which has a gender bias. This is now used by the Recruitment Hub to review and write job advertisements in line with the College's commitment to EDI.
EDI in the Faculty of Natural Sciences
The Faculty of Natural Sciences is located across three campuses, and comprises six departments and institutes: Chemistry, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Physics, the Centre for Environmental Policy, and the Grantham Institute. Each department and institute has an EDI committee.
The Faculty has focused on promoting a number of training initiatives to staff including:
This training aims to empower staff across the community to challenge poor behaviours and bring about cultural change. Active Bystanders reinforce messages defining the boundaries of unacceptable behaviour. This was initially offered to staff across the Faculty, and is now also being rolled out to students.
Bullying and Harassment
This training aims to define and recognise bullying behaviour and looked at the misuse of power and how to identify and manage this.
Tackling unconscious bias
This aims to provide an understanding of how unconscious bias operates in the workplace, and how to identify, manage and challenge these biases.
The Faculty has been running training with MIND, the mental health charity, since 2017, and has offered training sessions on Managing Mental Health in the Workplace, aimed at those who manage staff, and a bespoke course on Managing your own Mental Health, aimed at both staff and postgraduate students to support their own mental health and wellbeing.
Health and wellbeing
There has also been a focus on the promotion of health and wellbeing among staff members, which has included a dedicated health and wellbeing website signposting staff to relevant resources, a postcard which was sent to all staff within the Faculty alongside a letter from the Dean, and the "Have Your Say" campaign, which has allowed staff and students to report poor or unwanted behaviour, bullying and discrimination.
In 2018, the Faculty set up a which allows staff from across the Faculty to work with another individual or team for up to two days to obtain an insight into how other areas of the Faculty work.
Support for female staff
The Faculty Ambassadors to Academic Women organise and collaborate on annual events and activities for women in the Faculty. This initiative is designed to place greater emphasis on support to female staff, leading to greater retention.
We also have a strong programme of outreach activities, including the Schools Science and Innovation Competition, the RSCU Science Challenge, and department-specific activities across the Faculty.
Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion in our departments in the menu below.
EDI across the Faculty
Department of Chemistry
The Department of Chemistry was awarded a Gold Athena SWAN award for good practice in supporting academic women in September 2013. Chemistry was the first department at Imperial to receive a Gold award and was one of the first four university departments across the UK to win an Athena SWAN Gold Award.
The Department have an ambitious Athena Swan action plan which allowed them to renew their Gold status in 2019, making the Department one of a small number in the UK to maintain this level.
In the summer of 2018 the Department moved to state-of-the-art facilities at Imperial's new White City Campus. These were planned with inclusivity in mind: for example, there are variable height benches and fume cupboards in every laboratory for those who would find a fixed bench difficult to access, a gender-neutral toilet on every floor, and a room for new and expectant mothers designed with help from colleagues in Occupational Health.
In order to address any possible bias and to encourage applications from females (who have traditionally been under-represented in the field), the Department pioneered a search committee approach to recruitment for academic roles. The committee are tasked with identifying and approaching female candidates, and the Department monitors the gender split of those applying and being interviewed. Non-appointed female candidates are offered individual feedback. Particularly promising unsuccessful candidates are given a mentor within the Department to help with future applications; and the intention is that they will be supported in fellowship applications.
Department of Life Sciences
The Department of Life Sciences has held a Bronze Athena SWAN award since 2011, and this was renewed in both 2015 and 2019.
The Department has sought to promote academic and social cohesion within the Department through a number of activities including monthly newsletters, know your pool, social events within family friendly hours, stimulating a training and development culture, giving strong support for parental leave and family life, and an overhaul of induction and promotion processes.
The Department's Academic Opportunities Committee provides advice and guidance to ensure that, in addition to disseminating university-wide policies, the Department actively works to address challenges to gender equality that are particular to Life Sciences and takes action based on identified issues. The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDIC) includes both staff and student representatives and aims to broaden the Department's commitment to EDI across all protected characteristics. The Postdoc Committee focuses on fostering an inclusive community and enhancing career development for postdoctoral staff.
The Department hosts an annual International Women's Day Lecturer series, inviting high profile female scientists and speakers to address staff and students across the College. The Department has also recently introduced an online suggestion box to allow anyone to make suggestions and raise issues relating to gender balance, diversity and inclusion.
Department of Mathematics
The Department of Mathematics was awarded a Bronze Athena SWAN award in 2012, which was renewed in 2016, and is aiming to apply for Silver award in April 2020.
The Department has introduced several policies, including the 'Support for Staff with Caring Responsibilities, Protected Characteristics, Ill Health, or Returning for Periods of Leave' policy, and underwriting the undergraduate and MSc Women's Scholarship funded in part by Marjorie McDermott. In addition, all seminars, colloquia, workshops, and conferences that receive funding from or are hosted by the Department must have a published diversity policy.
The Department encourages all staff to attend the active bystander and bullying & harassment courses, as well as a range workshops around teaching, learning and pastoral care, LGBTQ+ inclusive personal tutoring and teaching, resilience and wellbeing, and suicide prevention. All staff in the Department have been required to register for a unconscious bias training course in 2019-20.
The Department have also introduced a number of programmes aiming to improve the career pipeline for women in maths, including:
- Undergraduate and MSc Women's Scholarship funded in part by Marjorie McDermott, which aims to increasing the number of women in MSc programmes.
- The Mary Lister McCammon Summer Research Fellowship provides research experience for undergraduate/postgraduate female students, and aims to increase the number of women on PhD programmes.
- The Cecilia Tanner Fund provides research funds for academic staff, and is named for one of the first female Lecturers in the Department.
The mA*ths programme provides online tailored online support for students preparing for Maths and Further Maths A-level exams, and includes online mentoring and face-to-face masterclasses at Imperial. The in-person support is targeted at widening participation (WP) students with the goal of increasing the number of WP students among undergraduates within the Department.
Department of Physics
The Department of Physics established the Juno Transparency and Opportunity Committee in 2007 to implement the Institute of Physics' Juno Code of practice, which aims to support best practice for all staff with particular attention to putting in place practical actions to address the under representation of women in university physics.
The Department's Committee is also guided by the Athena Swan Charter. The Department was awarded Juno Championship status and an Athena SWAN Silver award in 2009, which was renewed in 2012 and 2018.
The Department of Physics has driven and implemented a number of activities and approaches to supporting diversity and inclusion within the Department including: working to understand and reduce the demographic attainment gap, introducing women-only open days, introducing a workload model to ensure work is shared fairly across the Department, setting up networking for female researchers, the promotion of flexible working, department wide training programmes for equality-related issues, and the introduction of an undergraduate student hosted LGBTQ+ week within the Department.
Centre for Environmental Policy
The Centre for Environmental Policy was awarded a Bronze Athena SWAN award in 2019. Recent work from the Department includes profiling female members of staff online and improving flexible working opportunities for those juggling parenting responsibilities. In preparation for this application, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee was re-established in May 2017, and both staff and PhD students were given the opportunity to join the Committee.
The Director of the Centre is one of the College's six specially trained Sexual Violence Liaison Officers, and one of the Centre's postgraduates has set up a network among female postgraduates which is also reaching out to female researchers and undergraduates.
The Centre has established a workload model to ensure the equitable allocation of tasks regardless of staff 'protected characteristics', ensuring that staff are not overburdened with teaching or administrative responsibilities.
The Grantham Institute has set up an equality and diversity working group, with members from research, education, communications and operations within the Institute. The group aims to develop, review and implement EDI strategies and initiatives within the Institute.
As part of this commitment to EDI, the Centre built relationships with Student Marketing and Outreach and the Assistant Provost (EDI) has spoken to the Institute about the College's work.
The Institute has recently committed to making job advertisements more inclusive and open by reviewing essential requirements for role, and reviewing all advertisements using Textio. The Institute has also committed to advertise all roles on Diversity Job Site, and has developed a strap line for use on all adverts:
"Imperial College London and the Grantham Institute strive to be open and welcoming working environments for all. We actively encourage applicants from under-represented groups in science."
The Institute is also developing plans for Women at Imperial week, and has committed to review all external speakers to support a diverse programme for staff and students.