Three steps to implementing DEI across your professional society
August 14, 2023
By Zoë Genova
With a dedicated diversity, equity and inclusion manager, the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine is incorporating DEI across the organization. Here’s how.
With an increasing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the research ecosystem, professional and learned societies are looking for ways to embrace DEI and expand their capacity to support related initiatives. The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM)(opens in new tab/window) is one example (there, the strategy and practice is referred to as EDI.).
After years of gradually integrating EDI into its work — and adding inclusiveness as a key strategic value — IPEM appointed Eva McClean(opens in new tab/window) to the inaugural role of EDI and Member Networks Manager.
Appointed in 2020, Eva now leads on IPEM’s EDI initiatives and works on integrating EDI in everything IPEM does. In her role so far, she has overseen the completion of a comprehensive EDI assessment framework, written an EDI action plan and policy(opens in new tab/window), and worked with IPEM’s governance team to gain approval on policies. She currently works on implementing the EDI action plan, creating and amending policies to support the EDI agenda, providing EDI trainings, giving general EDI advice to members, and managing relevant partner relations.
1. Ensuring IPEM’s membership is representative
One of IPEM’s goals is to make sure its members(opens in new tab/window) (more than 4,500 medical physicists, clinical engineers and clinical technologists) reflect the society they live in. However, access to and within their profession is not equitable.
According to Eva, the origins of the current inequities are deeply rooted. To work in most medical physics roles in the UK, one must have an undergraduate physics degree followed by government-funded specialist postgraduate training. To get into an undergraduate physics program, students must have access to good physics provisions in secondary school and have teachers who inspire them to pursue such interests. However, many schools in lower-income communities don’t offer physics courses, don’t have specialist physics teachers, and don’t have role models for students to look up to. Moreover, universities are expensive, and places on the government-funded specialist training are very limited.
“In the end, these degrees and the profession itself favor a demographic of people who have had a lifetime of more access and resources,” Eva said. “On our own we cannot change this, but we do want to play our part in addressing these systemic issues through outreach and working with social mobility organizations at school level.”
On a more strategic level, IPEM uses an EDI progression framework that is compelling the organization to examine all areas of its work, including governance, leadership, meetings and conferences, education, training, prizes, communication and marketing, outreach and engagement, hiring practices, monitoring and evaluation and publishing. IPEM can make more of a difference in areas where it has more influence, but it aims to take at least small actions in each area.
In the scope of governance, for instance, IPEM changed its committee terms of reference to include a focus on diverse group membership and an option to challenge all internal appointments. For engagement, as an example, IPEM is working with partners to change clinical imaging patient posters (mammography, X-rays, etc.) in hospitals to use more inclusive language and imagery for transgender patients. IPEM has also been in favor of publishing partners like Elsevier signing on to the Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing(opens in new tab/window).
2. Capturing EDI data to inform decision-making
The next step for IPEM is to conduct comprehensive data collection using a new customer relationship management database that has more provisions for EDI data. Data collection will help colleagues at IPEM see a better picture of their membership, properly identify areas that need improvement, and evaluate their work more efficiently.
“EDI can be hard to measure,” Eva said. “But having this meaningful, long-term data will allow us to make better decisions about where to focus and what areas to support. It will help us build a better future for IPEM and our members as we work towards equity.”
3. Working in partnership
As a small organization with only one person dedicated to EDI, forming partnerships with larger organizations that can share resources and connections is key. If a large, influential organization is doing EDI work, such as the Royal Society of Chemistry(opens in new tab/window), it helps drive change for smaller ones.
Advice for societies wanting to embrace DEI
To embrace diversity, equity and inclusion into your organization’s strategies and ways of working, Eva gave two suggestions:
Gain buy-in from senior leadership: Without commitment from leadership, EDI is in danger of becoming a tick box. For example, because IPEM’s former CEO, Rosemary Cook, saw and promoted the need for change within the organization, EDI is now a standing item on every trustee agenda, supported by a dedicated EDI trustee and EDI member of staff. Meaningful changes require senior support across the organization.
Complete an EDI progression framework: How do you evaluate your work? What is considered good, bad or acceptable? The Royal Academy of Engineering and Science Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Progression Framework 2.0(opens in new tab/window) guides users to assess and monitor EDI progress across all areas of their organization. It’s a free, honest baseline that can be completed, formed into an action plan, and later used to measure success. After a few years, the exercise can be repeated to reframe using progress made as a new baseline.