Practical exercises in diversity

On 4 July, the Bulletin took part in an interactive workshop in the framework of the CERN Diversity programme. And it was time very well spent. Read on…


Discussion on the theme "unconscious bias".

The participants begin to gather in the Pump Room (Building 2016) around 1.30 p.m. With name-tags stuck to our chests, we take our places at Table 7, which we now realise we selected for ourselves at random. Some people have already arrived, and after some tentative, courteous introductions, the atmosphere at the “sevens table” begins to warm up.

A few minutes later, the workshop begins. Alan Richter, CEO of HR consultancy firm QED Consulting is the Master of Ceremonies. First exercise, “the circle”, or how to prove that diversity starts right under your nose. Skiers to the left, non-skiers to the right. The overwhelming majority are skiers. How do the non-skiers feel about finding themselves in the minority? Uncomfortable? Excluded? Perhaps not in this particular case, but you get the idea… Everyone is in a minority at one point or another.

As the afternoon wears on, so various topics come up - age, sex, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, etc. We touch on the most delicate subjects without embarrassment or taboo. Would my life have been different if I had been born a man/woman? 20 years earlier? Into another culture? The variety of answers to these questions bears witness to the diversity of the respondents and the spotlight becomes trained on the phenomenon of “unearned advantage”. “Unearned” because being born white in South Africa at the time of apartheid or being a man in a country where women are denied rights is simply the luck of the draw.

"It's right to underline that some people enjoy unearned advantage," one female participant states, “but how do you get them to take part in this kind of workshop?” And that’s precisely the point. Whereas those who are directly affected by diversity and inclusion issues are often the most receptive, it’s important to realise that the Diversity workshops are intended for everyone. The next one will take place in the autumn (in French) and other such events are slated for 2014. You can rely on the Bulletin to keep you fully informed.

For more information on the CERN Diversity programme, click here.

by Anaïs Schaeffer