Prioritising diversity and inclusion during lockdown | Executive Director of Engagement

In previous blogs I have outlined how the launch of our new strategy, has really galvanised our action on equality, inclusion and diversity.

Since my last post, we have appointed a new Head of Diversity and Talent who will take the lead in creating a working environment which is truly inclusive and in diversifying our workforce.

Since April, we have advertised as many roles as possible internally only, to allow for promotion. We know there is far greater diversity, particularly in terms of ethnicity, in our lower grade jobs so we want to offer opportunities for promotion wherever we can and since April 2020 40% of roles have been offered to internal candidates.

To improve diversity and inclusion we also need a clear picture of the demographics, perspectives and experiences of our staff. We have used our staff survey to improve our understanding of this and now know more about diversity in our workforce. This has led to the number of staff declaring a disability rising from 3% to 5.1%.

Training is also important. We now have courses in Access and Equality, Trans Awareness and Gender Diversity and Tackling Racism in the Workplace training is next. There is also lots of support and training to help staff to with their wellbeing and mental health in lockdown.

We were honoured to have the Rt Hon Stuart Lawrence take part in our Diverse Voices: In Conversation webinar series, which invites diverse change-makers to speak to staff about critical questions around equality, diversity, inclusion and human rights. He spoke about his family’s campaign to challenge institutional racism and the importance of empathy and kindness in achieving an equitable workplace culture.

Stuart was interviewed by Principal Curator Miranda Lowe who, I’m thrilled to say, received two huge accolades late last year. She was number 17 on Radio 4’s Woman Hour Power List 2020 which celebrated women whose work is making a significant contribution to the sustainability of our planet and she was named as one of the 100 Great Black Britons in a book with the same title.

Engaging with all

We’ve also made some progress on the Audience Diversity stream of work. To meet our mission of creating advocates for the planet, we need to engage and involve the widest possible audience.  We have been working with a wide range of community organisations, particularly those working with diverse young people and families, for example, Nova New Opportunities in North Kensington and working with their family audiences to help shape our programme plans for the Urban Nature Project

Our Urban Nature Project Youth Advisory Panel, selected with the help of partners including Voyage, Musawa BME Community Consortium, Young Women’s Trust and Action for Conservation has been doing some important work with us. These brilliant young people have been exploring inequalities around access to green space and nature and designing interventions to help to address these challenges. We’re looking forward to taking their ideas forward!

Our fantastic Dawnosaurs online activities, aimed at children with neurodiverse conditions including autism and sensory processing difficulties, has benefitted from some additional funding allowing us to continue to provide this resource which been exceptionally well-received.

Examining our collections

The NHM is always thinking about how we can better understand and share our collections so that we are truly inclusive.  As part of this ongoing work we have formalised the principles we work under – you can read them on our Ethics page. This work helps us acknowledge the full history of our immense collection, introduce broader perspectives on it and better communicate and share information about it.

These principles have built upon approaches we were already applying. For example, our new display exploring the legacy of explorer, botanist and patron of natural sciences Sir Joseph Banks, in our beautiful Images of Nature Gallery, provides the wider historical context in which he lived.  

This display uses some of the extraordinary collections amassed by Joseph Banks (1743–1820) to explore his life and interests. During his lifetime, Banks’ collections were among the most comprehensive accounts of the natural world. His rare manuscripts, artworks, preserved insects, shells and pressed plants formed the basis of our collections and are central to its origins.

The exhibition will celebrate his significant contribution to our understanding of the natural world whilst also exploring how his expeditions and collections were, and continue to be, entwined with Britain’s colonial past. Banks lived at an age when British science and colonialism were closely linked through trade, travel and the exploitation of natural resources. The exhibition recognises the work of Banks and the scientists he supported often depended on Indigenous knowledge which has gone unacknowledged.

This fascinating new display will be free to access and will hopefully be ready and waiting for visitors as soon as we can reopen our doors.

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