“Diversity and inclusion:” a meta-look at ICHEP

Event: Diversity and Inclusion sessions at ICHEP 2020

Reference: https://indico.cern.ch/event/868940/sessions/352786/

This summer’s ICHEP conference, officially held in Prague but this time actually on screens around the world, had two sessions devoted to diversity and inclusion in HEP. We’d like to mention some highlights of the talks, trying to give an indicative look but certainly not exhaustive.

from the USHEP COVID presentation

Presentations were given by the four large LHC experiments, the Belle II experiment and Valencia’s IFIC institute, five of which have dedicated “diversity offices.” Their talks presented statistics, internal poll results and accounts of activities. There was also coverage of two initiatives, THE Port humanitarian hackathons and Particle Physics Masterclasses for Girls, a contribution from the LGBTQ community at CERN, and a study on the pandemic impact for the US HEP Advisory Panel.

The main focus in terms of inclusion was gender, as the institutional presentations discussed a variety of statistics on the presence and role of women. In all of them the ratio of female members fell in the vicinity of 20% with an upward trend throughout the last decade. The statistics included details according to geographical regions and assigned responsibilities, which were in general corresponding to the overall ratio with some nuances. (One outlier that caught our eye was zero out of sixteen female speakers in the theory session of a regional meeting, which is compatible with our empirical estimation from other theory events.)

from the ATLAS presentation

A few interesting points on gender inequality emerged from polls carried out by LHCb: out of the members who have dependents in their families (35% in total), 35% of women vs. 20% of men answered that this has made them decline a position of responsibility in the collaboration. At the same time, out of the members who used maternity or paternity leave, 41% of women vs. 0% of men found that their career took a step back after it.

Family and gender along with race showed up as imbalanced factors also in a study in Brazil, presented in the US HEP pandemic study, where different groups were found to be affected to different extents by the lockdown. Indicatively, submitting papers while working remotely tended to go better the more white, male, and without kids the author was.

Alongside numbers, the institutions talked about their inclusion activities, such as discussions and seminars, training for conveners, social media and real-world events on action dates. Tongue-in-cheek, it’d probably be fair to count the ROOT logo upgrade among them.

from the LGBTQ CERN presentation

Inclusion and discrimination based on sexual identity was underscored by the presentation by LGBTQ CERN. It highlighted the CERN Informal Network’s not-all-rosy history and some public initiatives, like LGBTSTEM Day and IDAHOT. (It also included the catchy slogan “Without colors there’s no strong interaction.”)

Academia and research in large collaborations can be real ecosystems with their own issues, some of which – not traditionally present in the official discourse – seem to start emerging. These include being a newcomer, being geographically away from one’s experiment, the role of institutional affiliation, as well as social isolation and mental health. At the least, these topics now appear in the agendas of the collaborations. Student issues seem to be especially targeted: the “LHC Early Career Initiatives” provide workshops and networking, while the LHCb experiment pioneers dedicated introductory meetings and the “Starterkit” courses. Of course this is not to say that issues are exclusive to the young, as demonstrated by LHCb’s poll where the ratio of members who are dissatisfied with the work-life balance increases with seniority.

To close these highlights with some thinking outside the box, the inclusion activities of Belle II can be mentioned, which among other extend to lobbying for vegetarian food options and color blind-friendly screens in the control room.

The data might still be sparse and some bias systematic, but these discussions showed a growing trend for tackling issues in the world of HEP.

All presentations can be found at: https://indico.cern.ch/event/868940/sessions/352786/#all