Equality, Diversity and Inclusion update | Executive Director of Engagement

Over the last few months, we have welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors through our doors, opened our hugely popular Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition and celebrated the end of the smash hit tour of our famous dinosaur Dippy at Norwich Cathedral.

We hosted a Nature Bar event space in Glasgow during COP26 in collaboration with our Ambassador David de Rothschild and his organisation Voice for Nature. As part of The New York Times Climate Hub, the Nature Bar gave visitors and delegates an opportunity to connect with the Museum’s solutions-focused science and a fantastically diverse line-up of young activists, explorers, artists and business leaders. 

A standout session for me was seeing our Biodiversity Researcher Dr Adriana De Palma discussing the pressures on our planet with DJ, music producer and environmental toxicologist Jayda G and activists Daphne Frias and Phoebe Hanson (Operations Director for Force of Nature) – a stellar panel and a fascinating discussion.

Workforce Diversity: Our Ethnicity Pay Gap

We have been working hard to become a more equal, diverse and inclusive organisation. We have been gathering and evaluating data on our workforce to help us do this. We want to be honest and open about this work which is why we have voluntarily published our 2021 Ethnicity Pay Gap today which shows the difference in the average hourly rate of pay between Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and White employees.

Reporting the ethnicity gap is voluntary for organisations, which makes comparisons hard, but the Office for National Statistics reported that the figure for London overall was 23.8% in 2019.

Our report has found a median ethnicity pay gap in our workforce of 14%. It is a gap we need to close.

We pay people the same rate for doing the same job, so this difference is due to the different types of work that people do, the seniority of roles people hold and who is in full-time versus part-time work. For example, whilst 20% of our workforce is BAME in the lowest quartile of pay, this drops to 5% in the top quartile of pay so it’s evident we need better representation at more senior levels within the Museum.

We know we have much to do to redress this imbalance, publishing this data is part of tackling this gap.

Building a diverse and inclusive workforce remains a top priority for the Museum and we are moving in the right direction. In the last year we have seen a 10% increase in the number of staff from BAME backgrounds employed by the Museum. Recruitment is key and our HR team have been reviewing how we encourage applications to work here.

We’ve tried, where possible, to fill jobs with people already working at the Museum. It’s a good way to champion internal talent as we have greater diversity at the lower end of the salary scales. I’m happy to report that 45% of our vacancies this year have been filled by internal promotions, 20% of roles had been filled by BAME candidates and 6.5% of roles had been filled by candidates declaring a disability, so we are moving in the right direction.

To back this up we are giving all staff diversity and inclusion training and putting our leadership team through a programme of anti-racism, trans awareness and inclusive leadership training.  We’re equipping colleagues with skills that help them better manage their career and training managers to help staff achieve their ambitions.

Strategically embedding equity, diversity and inclusion

We have created a new internal group called the EDI Steering Group as well as restructured the former Diversity Working Group to give it greater influence and agency.

The Diversity Working Group has been renamed the IDEA Committee and has a new governance structure to strengthen its impact. The new Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Steering Group will support all strands of EDI across the Museum to ensure it is joined up and prioritised across four key areas or work: workforce diversity; research culture; audience diversity; understanding and sharing the collections

It’s fantastic to have both groups up and running and working together to help the Museum make better progress.

Diversifying Environmental Sciences

A team at the Museum, spearheaded by Research Leader Prof Anjali Goswami, is exploring ways to increase representation of people from marginalised ethnic backgrounds in the natural and environmental sciences, through a nine-month pilot scheme called The Explorers Project.

They hosted The Explorers Conference at the Museum in November, a careers event aimed at empowering people from marginalised ethnic backgrounds to pursue careers and research opportunities in Environmental Sciences. Attendees included undergraduate and postgraduate students and early career researchers from Black, Asian and other racially minoritised backgrounds in the UK.

Above all, the aim of the conference was to create a sense of belonging in the environmental and natural history sector. This was achieved by a carefully curated list of speakers and facilitators, from a wide range of backgrounds who generously shared their experiences (including the Museum’s Principal Curator, Crustacea, Miranda Lowe and Science Communicator Khalil Thirlaway). Students had the opportunity to discover the varied opportunities in the environmental sciences and take part in workshops to provide the tools and advice to assist them on their own career and educational journeys.

The feedback from panellists and students who attended has been hugely positive. Jamie Harrison-Grundy, a panel speaker from Carbon Intelligence described the Explorers Conference as a “beautiful day” and Dawood Qureshi, who attended as a Science Communicator urged that many more of these events occur because it was “brilliant, accessible and useful”.

It was fantastic to see students who attended the event celebrating it on social media too. Congratulations to Anjali and her team who through initiatives like this are helping to build a supportive and inclusive community.

I’d like to end this by thanking all the staff driving forward this fantastic work (and all the other work featured in my previous blogs) to make the Museum more inclusive on all aspects of diversity and equality. Whilst we know we have much work ahead of us, it’s inspiring to reflect back on the progress we have begun to make in the last 12 months. I look forward to sharing more in 2022!

Find out more about Diversity and Inclusion at the Museum

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