We Need to Talk About Diversity

It has long been recognised that the ecology and conservation sector in the UK and Ireland is lacking in diversity, but very little has been done to address it. In recent months it’s something that CIEEM has become increasingly conscious of, particularly in the light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and we want to let our members know what we are doing about it: at Governing Board level, within our secretariat, amongst our membership, and in the wider profession.

In June 2020, our CEO Sally Hayns released a statement on racism and ecology – a call for listening and support, and for action. But diversity and inclusivity is not just about ethnicity. It’s also about gender identity, sexual orientation, age demographics, religion, disability and socio-economic status, some of which are ‘protected characteristics’ under the Equality Act 2010. And it’s about representation of ecologists and environmental managers working in all parts of the sector and in all geographic areas.

Some of these issues have already been highlighted in more detail, for example in Steve Roe’s blog on Supporting LGBTQ+ Professionals, Mya-Rose Craig’s blog on Colonialism in Conservation, and Hannah Williams’s In Practice article on Stimulating Representation of BAME People. Other equality issues have also been touched upon, for example as part of the Employment and Salary Survey 2017-18 and within Marcus Kohler’s blog post on Exploitation of Graduate Ecologists. If you’ve missed any of these, I can highly recommend taking a moment to read them.

But highlighting issues and raising awareness is just the start – it’s the actions which follow that are most important. So what is CIEEM doing?

A number of things are already in place that have started to address issues like representation, recognition and inclusivity. An example close to my heart is the creation of Project Officer (PO) posts in the three devolved nations and Ireland, helping to ensure that people living/working in these places have representation within the secretariat.

As PO for Wales, I work alongside the Wales Member Network Committee, the Wales Policy Group and the Vice President for Wales to ensure that CIEEM’s work represents the sector that we support. My colleagues Annie and Liz do similar things for Scotland and the Island of Ireland respectively. There are a number of Member Networks across England too – as well as a Special Interest Group for the UK Overseas Territories. Within our Member Network committees we have also created a specific Role Profile for Student Representatives, and strongly encourage students and early career ecologists to get involved.

In 2019 the Landscape Institute launched #RainbowPlaces, a cross-industry LGBTQ+ networking group, and CIEEM is a proud partner. We hope that this leads to greater discussion and action, as well as supporting LGBTQ+ professionals.

Diversity was raised at our July staff meeting and a broad discussion was had on: barriers to working for CIEEM; barriers to careers in ecology and environmental management; and what we can do to address the barriers identified. Out of this, several members of staff have formed a working group to look in more detail at these issues, with the first meeting taking place in early August. One of the things discussed was the Diversity and Inclusion Framework for Professional Bodies (formally adopted by the Governing Board in late July) with the view to developing an action plan to deliver and monitor progress.

Other discussions are also ongoing around collecting data on protected characteristics of members and future secretariat applicants (which we currently don’t do). There have also been recent discussions at Membership Admissions Committee, Registration Authority and Governing Board meetings on trying to eliminate unconscious bias around protected characteristics within the membership and chartership application processes. In addition, all secretariat staff have recently attended equality, diversity and inclusivity training, and we are delighted that Judy Ling Wong, President of the Black Environment Network, has agreed to speak at our Time to Change conference in Bristol in December.

But this isn’t a give-CIEEM-a-pat-on-the-back story. It’s about telling you that we have made a start and that we will continue doing the work, for as long as it takes. It can’t be fixed overnight, and it’s not just about saying all the right things and then not acting. It’s about taking the long view and being prepared to work hard to create change, no matter how challenging that may be. Do get in touch and share your experiences. We absolutely welcome feedback, because that will help us do better – and we really must do better.


Diana Clark MCIEEM is CIEEM’s Wales Project Officer.
Contact Diana at: dianaclark@cieem.net