Sandile Mtetwa, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge and founder of a group called Africans in STEM, added: “If you don’t get to see people like you in senior positions it’s very easy not to feel like you belong in a particular area. Without any support, which a lot of Black students face – there’s no-one who is able to guide you career-wise or help you along the academic ladder – because they’re not representing people like you anyway.
“It feels lonely. There’s no other word to describe it and people tend to go elsewhere to where they feel they belong. That means losing quite a lot of brilliant and highly capable individuals. It’s heartbreaking.”
Professor Bhavik Patel is a researcher at the University of Brighton, who says he’s experienced many micro-aggressions and ‘inadvertent racism’ during his career.
“The experiences that resonate to me when I came into an academic position – and senior academic positions – was attending conferences for my discipline, and being considered as the IT person and never considered as someone who would be on the platform to present. I was often given USB keys by other speakers to upload at presentations and I had to say, ‘I’m actually one of the speakers here’.
“That makes you reflect on ‘why do they see me differently’ and ‘why am I not being considered on the same context as the other people who are at this platform to present’? It brings with it self-doubt about what your belonging is here and are you valued in your work and your representation.”
Dr Helen Pain added: “The chemical sciences are playing a crucial role in tackling some of the biggest issues facing the world today – from climate change to disease and hunger. It is of the utmost importance that our industry attracts and retains a diverse pipeline of talent, so that we can come up with the best possible solutions, informed by wide-ranging perspectives and experiences.”