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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

CEB embraces Diversity

The much-awaited Diversity@CEB launch kicked off on 24 October 2017 with a welcome and introduction by Head of Department Professor John Dennis, who fully endorsed the new initiative giving his unconditional support.

The University of Cambridge is committed in its pursuit of academic excellence to equality of opportunity and to a proactive and inclusive approach to equality, which supports and encourages all under-represented groups, promotes an inclusive culture, and values diversity. As part of its Equality and Diversity strategy, it is committed to promote and embrace diversity throughout departments and Colleges.

In line with this strategy, the Diversity@CEB Team, composed of academic and support staff, put together a diversity mission and decided to organise the launch event in aid of inclusion and a more positive working environment.

Department members and University colleagues were invited to talk and share their experiences with attendees congregated in the Atrium for the inaugural event:

Anne Davis, Professor of Mathematical Physics at DAMTP and former University Gender Equality Champion for STEMM subjects, talked about her experience as a female academic in science, the challenges encountered and the opportunities for promotion in the word of academia. She called for leaders to encourage talented female academics to aim higher and for those in recruitment panels to ensure that there is enough gender balance amongst candidates shortlisted.

Pedro Vallejo Ramirez, 2nd Year PhD student at CEB Laser Analytics group, was born in Colombia but raised in Panana, where his family moved in search of a better life. He grew up in a male dominated latino culture, where patriarchal authority was very much imposed. He experienced a ‘culture shock’ when he moved to the US to undertake his undergrad studies. He felt extremely confused when he found that Americans were rather open when discussing what he considered 'taboo 'subjects like sexuality, as his family had never talked to him about them. He also touched on changing University cultures and ‘institutional airbrushing’, which needed to be properly handled.

The Diversity@CEB Team managed the follow-on discussion where attendees (staff, students and academics from different backgrounds and at different levels of their careers) asked the speakers about their experiences. The Atrium thrived as the audience felt increasingly comfortable to openly discuss the issues raised in the informal forum.

Finally, CEB considered how they could challenge preconceived ideas and tackle unacceptable behaviours as a Department for the common good. It was also acknowledged that, although things have changed slightly, there’s still a long way to go. It was unanimously agreed that everyone has a responsibility to make things work and that, working in a multicultural environment such as CEB, also provides benefits and opportunities to learn from others. Therefore, we ought to embrace and respect not only our similarities but also our differences. The event was then wrapped up with vibrant networking session over drinks and nibbles.

Elena Gonzalez commented on behalf of the Team; ’the level of audience engagement was very positive and it was fantastic to see the lively discussion that followed related to the important issues raised by the speakers. We thank Pedro and Anne for their valuable contribution. We hope others follow suit and we look forward to organising more exciting events in the future. Suggestions and feedback are very much welcome of course.’

The next event in the series will take place in Lent Term. More information will be available near the time.

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