Equality in Science overview

Wellcome Sanger Institute, Genome Research Limited
Wellcome Sanger Institute, Genome Research Limited

The Equality in Science programme is a joint initiative of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Connecting Science, EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) and other bodies on Campus. Originally established as Sex in Science in 2011, Equality in Science aims to generate discussion and raise awareness about issues traditionally facing women and marginalised groups in science, and to drive policy and practice changes to redress them

Women and people from other marginalised and historically excluded groups such as LGBT+, Black, Asian, Minority and Ethnic and disabled scientists are represented in diminishing proportions along the scientific pipeline. In our Equality in Science programme we explore these issues, look to inspire researchers, develop discussion and drive change in current practices and policy.


The programme was developed in 2011 by Professor Ele Zeggini. The Equality in Science working group is comprised of approximately 20 colleagues from across the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Connecting Science, the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) and other entities on Campus. It aims to:

  • raise awareness of issues facing marginalised groups in science
  • To address and challenge preconceptions
  • inspire people at different stages of their scientific careers to progress to senior levels;
  • foster constructive discussion about all of the issues above
  • inform and drive change in current practices and policy at the institutional level.

These objectives require long-term effort and we have the firm commitment and championship from senior leaders across our organisations to continue with this work into the future.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Connecting Science

At the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Connecting Science, our global reputation for excellence is underpinned by our commitment to developing and maintaining a forward looking organisation where staff and students from all backgrounds can thrive. By striving to promote and maintain a diverse, inclusive and stimulating workplace, we are celebrating and valuing our staff for their differences in thought, background, experience and perspectives.

Celebrating LGBT+ in STEM Day 2020 with Bisi Alimi

Since 2011, we have been pursuing a broad strategy to address the issue of gender imbalance and support for women in science through our active Campus-wide ‘Equality in Science’ programme.

In 2013, GRL became an active member of the Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN Charter which recognises the work undertaken to address gender equality. Our Athena SWAN Bronze Award was renewed in 2016 and we were delighted to have been awarded Silver in April 2020.

In 2017, our work was expanded to include broader diversity considerations and we are prioritising the implementation of an ambitious Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Programme.

We recognise that scientific excellence cannot be achieved without the support of the entirety of our workforce and in 2018 we signed the Technician Commitment, which is a sector-wide initiative led by the Science Council to ensure greater visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for technicians.

Where are we taking action?

We are focusing on impactful and sustained changes, which when combined, encourage and supports a positive culture of equality, diversity, and inclusion. As part of this, we are committed to a range of long-term, targeted activities which promote gender equality and recruitment, retention and progression of women within the organisation.

Our established Equality in Science programme raises awareness within the organisation of issues facing under-represented and minority groups in science and drives policy and practice changes to redress them. However, we recognise that no initiative will fully succeed without the right culture and working environment.

“Defining Success” panel session (https://sangerinstitute.blog/2021/08/23/defining-success/)

Our EDI strategy has been developed using data and evidence from our staff surveys, focus groups, and 1-1 interviews and has these principal aims:

  1. Nurture a diverse talent pipeline through proactively engaging with under-represented and minoritised groups. Ensure alignment with Connecting Science’s equity and inclusion strategy, including public engagement activities
  2. A diverse, representative staff and student community at all levels
  3. Managers and leaders take personal ownership and responsibility of EDI. They lead by example.
  4. An inclusive working environment where we all celebrate, respect and value each other’s diversity
  5. Facilities and services that are delivered in a way that promote equality, and respect diversity and inclusion.
  6. Inclusive research and experimental design

Our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Forum provides long-term support and strategic leadership and championship for EDI. Membership of the EDI Forum encompass a broad range of experiences and responsibilities. The group is chaired by Dr Cordelia Langford, Director of Scientific Operations.

Data is key to enable us to be more inclusive – our recently launched “Tell Us About Yourself” campaign, is an initiative to encourage and support staff and students to update their CoreHR data to help us with our evidence-based approach to driving inclusivity.

Our Supportive Culture

We recently introduced our Behavioural Competency Framework (BCF) as part of a broader culture programme. To guide us, we have defined six core behaviours that we value and and lay out our expectations for everyone working across our organisation.

Workplace Environment

We believe that cultivating a friendly and supportive workplace is key to helping our researchers, students, and staff develop their skills and experience. We have a family-friendly environment that permeates the fabric of our Campus.

For example, we have high chairs in the cafes, priority bus boarding for parents travelling with their children on the Campus buses, baby changing facilities, priority parking for pregnant employees and New and Expectant Mother (NEM) rooms, an on-site workplace nursery and a Campus-wide summer holiday club.

Speak Up

We recognise that the success of our organisation and our reputation depends on our staff and managers doing the right thing. We support the highest professional standards in a manner that is transparent with how things are done and is inclusive to all. We actively encourage a speak-up culture and provide tools and training to help empower staff to seek advice if they have any concerns about wrong-doing.

Work-life balance

We are committed to providing a range of progressive policies which support everyone to achieve a positive work-life balance.

We actively promote, encourage and support flexible working practices. Our enhanced Maternity and Shared Parental Leave Policies provide an entitlement to six months’ full pay. There is no qualifying period of employment before an employee is entitled to benefit from this enhanced policy. Our advice and guidance on Shared Parental Leave enables managers and staff to see, first-hand how the policy works in practice.

Paid Leave for Carers was introduced in 2017. This provides our employees with up to 10 additional days paid leave a year to deal with short-term, extraordinary caring situations such as looking after a sick child.

Our Returners’ Grant is a flexible scheme for researchers across Sanger to access when they return from maternity/shared parental/adoption/other extended leave. This could include mobilising existing resource from other areas (e.g. technical, technician, administrative), or applying for funds from a central pot.


For further information contact Dr Saher Ahmed, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: saher.ahmed@sanger.ac.uk