All Things Being Equal: Chief Executive’s Blog

This year the Learned Society of Wales welcomed a record number of female Fellows into its growing community of academics, researchers and professionals.  

In fact, we believe that with almost half of new Fellows being female (48%) this puts us amongst the top of the major national academies in terms of achieving a gender balanced intake. 

The announcement of our 2022 cohort of Fellows happened earlier this month. As it was swiftly followed by the revised REF2021 results day, where we celebrated the world-class excellence and impact of Welsh research, we did not take the time to reflect on just how great an achievement this was. In my first Chief Exec’s blog, it therefore feels right that I celebrate our achievements in EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) as well as set out our next steps on how we intend to build on this.  

When I started at the Society in February, I was delighted to discover a real commitment to valuing and celebrating the contributions of all, and  the positive steps the Society had made in improving EDI by making it a top priority. Since 2021 our Council has been gender balanced and huge efforts were already underway to improve the way people were nominated as Fellows. We were running more inclusive information sessions and ensuring that those who nominate potential fellows and decide on their appointment were following best practice to improve EDI.  

Our 2022 Fellows really are outstanding. They are a diverse cohort that reflects the fruits of these labours. We have effectively reached our 50/50 target of female/male nominations in just one year; 38 out of 77 nominations were for women. Considering that only 8% of Fellows were women in 2011, the fact we have seen that figure more than treble to 26% in 2022 is a huge leap forward.  

However, whilst there is much to be celebrated there is still much more to be done. We want to be a diverse Society and to reflect the diversity of wider society. As part of our ongoing EDI work, the Society commissioned a report last year to look at how welcoming and inclusive it is. The headline recommendations suggest the Society should continue to improve the diversity of its Fellowship, events and messaging. The report also recommends a mentoring scheme, expanding use of the Welsh language and increasing training for the Society. 

This month sees the formation of a working group, set up to consider the recommendations in the report, which was based on an online survey completed by 140 people and 20 follow-up interviews. 

Professor Terry Threadgold, an LSW Council member, who will lead the working group, said:

“The report makes important recommendations. The working group means we can explore them in depth and with the seriousness they deserve.” 

 “We know we have further to travel, even with recent encouraging progress. We need, for example, to improve our engagement with, and inclusion of, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, as well as those with other protected characteristics. The Society needs and welcomes the diversity of their experience and views.” 

We will use the expertise of our diverse Fellowship and external EDI specialists to recommend how we make our Society more equal, diverse and inclusive. The working group will report to the Society’s Council in Autumn 2022 and I hope I will be blogging about further progress again before too long.