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Overview: Diversity in science

Jassel Majevadia took part in the Society's Inspiring Scientists project with the British Library.

Diversity is essential to delivering excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  A diverse and inclusive scientific workforce draws from the widest range of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences thereby maximising innovation and creativity in science for the benefit of humanity.

The Society is committed to increasing diversity in STEM by seeking out participation from underrepresented groups, in order to build and develop a world in which studying and working in science are open to all.

Supporting and inspiring change

Our report A picture of the scientific workforce includes an analysis of the workforce in terms of gender, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic status and background. It found a complex picture of underrepresentation across these groups.

We aim to accommodate flexible working arrangements with all our grant schemes. Our fellowships allow for part-time working, sabbaticals and secondments and there is also provision for maternity, paternity, adoptive or extended sick leave (other care-related leave is also considered). The Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship scheme supports scientists at an early stage of their career who require a flexible working pattern due to personal circumstances. The Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture supports the promotion of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In partnership with National Life Stories at the British Library we recorded the ‘life stories’ of 10 British scientists with minority ethnic heritage for our Inspiring Scientists: Diversity in British Science project. The interviewees shared their experiences of being a minority in science, influences in their childhoods and the fun and importance of science both to themselves and to the wider community.

The Royal Society is working in partnership with the Windsor Fellowship to deliver Destination STEMM, a one year mentoring programme for Year 13 Black students living or studying in Greater London.  The programme targets students who are currently in Year 12 studying A-Level or equivalent in STEMM subjects and considering a career in a STEMM subject. The programme will support students for one year from the beginning of their Year 13 and started in autumn 2016. 

In conjunction with Westminster Business School we examined the business case for diversity in the scientific workforce. The report found strong support for a business case for diversity and made recommendations on how to increase and promote diversity in STEM.

Organisations face different challenges to improving their diversity. We promote and showcase the best examples in recruitment and retention as a set of best practice case studies.

In collaboration

The Society works in collaboration with partners across the scientific community to increase diversity.

We co-funded a pilot project to expand the remit of the Athena Swan Charter, a successful programme for improving gender equality in science. Following the pilot, the Charter was opened to research institutes as well as higher education institutions.

We support and provide the secretariat for the Athena Forum, an independent and expert voice on issues of participation and career progression facing members of under-represented groups in STEMM higher education and research.

Our own practices

The Society’s diversity committee regularly monitors statistics on diversity across the Society’s activities and publishes an annual data report.

Currently, about 9% of the Fellowship are women. The numbers of women in the Fellowship are improving steadily through steps such as encouraging the nominations of more women candidates and ensuring that women are actively sought for recommendation to committees.

In 2015 the Society published a review of actions that it will take to tackle issue of gender imbalance in our career development awards.

The Royal Society became a signatory of the Business in the Community Race at Work Charter in June 2021. The Society is committed to addressing barriers faced by individuals from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds in employment and career progression. In partnership with Business in the Community, the Society will develop a plan of action to uphold the commitments of the Charter. 

The Society is committed to making Diversity and Inclusion a priority, and the Society has developed a Diversity Strategy for 2019-22, which sets out how the Royal Society will use its convening power and leadership, in partnership with others, to increase diversity in STEM and build a more inclusive scientific community.

For further information on our diversity activities please contact the diversity team at

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