Diversity at CERN: is it sometimes a challenge?

The first diversity interaction workshop took place on 8 March. Although the choice of date was intended as a tribute to women, the real focus of the event was raising awareness about all types of diversity at CERN.


During the workshop, the participants worked in small groups to discuss diversity.

The seminar was attended by 32 people, a relatively small number if one considers how many people are working on the CERN site. Does this mean that diversity is not an issue? I would rather say that, given the international and multi-faceted character of the Laboratory, diversity is taken for granted in many cases but, thanks to the seminar, I also realized that there may be issues hiding behind different types of behaviour. The discussion was very useful in raising awareness about this fact. As summarised by Anne-Sylvie Catherin, HR Head, “Diversity is certainly one of our strengths but it needs to be continually nurtured”.

The workshop started with a short film showing how people can sometimes group together in sets described as “Xs”, thus leaving isolated the "Os", i.e. those who feel different or not part of the group. The members of the audience were asked to identify situations where they had felt like “Xs” and where they had felt like “Os”. 

While it seemed to be easy for people to identify situations where they had felt like “Os”, it was another matter when they were asked to identify situations in which they had felt like “Xs”.  Clearly, it is not easy to appreciate a problem when it is faced by somebody else, even a close colleague.

The aim of the workshop was to provide a framework for participants to exchange their own experiences of being different and appreciate differing perspectives, explained Sudeshna Datta Cockerill, Diversity Programme Leader. “It is about promoting the added value of diversity while assuring a work environment based on mutual respect and inclusiveness.”

If you missed the workshop – don’t worry as there will be other occasions to take part during the year. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to discuss issues relating to diversity in your workplace, do not hesitate to get in touch with the recently created “Diversity Office” in the HR Department. The new service takes over the reins from the “Equal Opportunities Office”. It introduces a broader approach to the topic and promotes diversity as a core value of the Organization.

by Antonella Del Rosso