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Diversity in the Geological Society

Tricia Henton* hails the signing of the Science Council’s Declaration on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

One of our most important functions as a professional body is to ensure that we serve not only our membership but society at large by attracting the widest possible talent into geoscience.  The Science Council (SC), which brings together learned societies and professional bodies across science and its applications, is keen to promote equality, diversity and inclusion among its member bodies.  To this end it has drawn up a Declaration to which Council agreed we should sign up.  This was duly done on 6 October. 

klj Caption: Professional Secretary Natalyn Ala (front right) signs the Science Council declaration on behalf of the President.  Also pictured: Tom Blundell, President of the Science Council (seated left), Sarah Kerr, Director, Race for Opportunity (back left), James Smith, Chair, Science Council Diversity Strategy Group (SCDSG, back right), and Edmund Nickless, Executive Secretary and member of SCDSG.


At the same Council I was co-opted back for a year as ‘Board level diversity champion’.  The SC defines my role as an advocate for ‘equality, diversity and inclusion ...  accountable for improving practice and communicating ...  diversity strategies to ...  staff, membership and other stakeholders’.

We are aware that the Society has very little baseline data against which to measure success.  We were surprised to find that a group of professional institutions and major geosciences employers all collect substantially more information from members and employees than we do, allowing them to monitor their progress more easily.  So, one of the first changes we propose is to put in place effective diversity monitoring - a legal requirement in the public, and standard practice in large parts of the private, sector (subject, of course, to the requirements of data security and confidentiality). 

Good communications are vital to promoting change.  We want all of you, the Fellowship and stakeholders, to contribute your views on how well we currently present ourselves.  Do we foster the feeling of being an ‘inclusive’ Society?  Do we cater for and adequately support differences of gender, ethnicity, age, sexual preference and physical ability?  Our Vice President for Regional Groups has already volunteered to provide feedback from them.  Many of their members are employed by a wide range of companies and public sector bodies whose experience will be helpful and relevant.

So why is the SC doing this and why are we happy to sign up and pursue the goals of the Declaration?  First, equality of opportunity is a moral and ethical issue being addressed by many.  For us this means ensuring that all within our profession feel welcome, are not unfairly discriminated against and that everyone’s talents are recognised. 

Second, for practical business reasons the geosciences need to ensure that the widest group of best-qualified and most talented individuals are brought in.  We know from our work on the ‘skills gap’ that we have personnel shortages in hydrogeology and geophysics, and ‘UK plc’ suffers shortages in STEM subjects generally.  We can ensure that we play our part in embedding equality and inclusion into our community and, in the words of the Declaration, ‘better serve society by attracting the widest possible talent to the science workforce and fostering a greater diversity of scientific ideas, research and technology’.  This is a long-term ambition.  We know we will not see results overnight, but we need to act now.

  • For more information, and to read the Declaration, visit Diversity.  If you have any comments or questions, or want to help, contact: [email protected]

* Tricia Henton is co-opted Council ‘diversity champion’.