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Diversity and Inclusion in a scientific context

You have probably already heard of diversity and inclusion, but isn’t this just another management term? No, not this time! I hope I can convince you that there is real magic in inclusion and embracing diversity. I will introduce you to the world of diversity and inclusion, what it looks like in your daily work routine, and how it can help you and your team. I will also provide you with a few tools and ideas on how to improve inclusion within your team.

What do we mean by Diversity & Inclusion?

So, what do we mean with this ‘magical’ term, Diversity & Inclusion? Let us start with diversity: most of us have pretty similar ideas about diversity. There are many diverse categories one can think of: age, gender, educational background, religion, nationality, and more. Each of us might have thought about slightly different attributes, which already illustrates diversity very well: we all have our preferences and backgrounds, which makes us perceive the world differently.

It is in knowing and accepting that others have other ideas and qualities that the power lies. These attributes and qualities shouldn’t be used to place people in a box, but it is the combination that makes each of us unique and valuable. Since everyone is unique, it is every individual that contributes to the diversity of the team.

Inclusion is where the real magic begins. You can have a very diverse team, but if your team members are unable to express themselves and their qualities, the team will not be as magical as it could be. People need to feel safe, appreciated and valued for who they are and what they can contribute. They need to be able to openly express opinions about themselves and others, to add their qualities to the team and grow.

In addition, they need to be able to make other team members feel safe to do this as well. Inclusion works in two ways, if you open up, others will feel safe to open up too. An open culture needs to be present to stimulate Inclusion. Inclusion is the ability to value people for who they are, including the talents, qualities and thoughts they have. It is the ability to make ALL people FEEL they BELONG.

What difference does Diversity & Inclusion make?

How is this going to help me do my job better? A lot of research has been done that proves that diverse teams outperform non-diverse teams (Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter by David Rock and Heidi Grant at Harvard Business Review gives a good summary). You will improve your work, whether project or research related, by building and fostering a diverse and inclusive team around you.

Looking at a problem from different angles will help you solve it quicker and the group is able to come with more innovate solutions. A more diverse and inclusive team also provides more complete, more careful and fact-based decision-making. In the end, working with diverse people helps you to improve yourself. It provides a mirror, enables you to be more critical in your thinking, and helps you think outside of the box.

What practical step can help us and our team(s) improve?

Thus, there is only one way to find out if this is really working for you and your team and that is to try. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you improve your team(s) and yourself. These are just ideas. The most important thing is to start valuing people for who they are, to start the conversation and let people think about themselves and their important roles in the group. Keep in mind that this only happens when you and the entire team truly value all the team members’ opinions and make everyone feel they belong. Otherwise people won’t speak out and valuable ideas will be missed.

  • Search for similarities and not differences when talking to people. Do not force diversity based on the category you think someone falls under nor to tick a box. Many people fit many categories, some of which they will have in common with other team members. Knowing that helps to bring the team together.
  • Realize that we are all unique: start with yourself and think about what makes you unique. Write it down and ask your team members to do the same. Then, have them write one or two things they value about each other in the team and see how they match, or not. You can start a conversation from there on diversity and inclusion, and how our own stories and backgrounds make us perceive things differently and how that makes us so valuable as a team. Make it positive as this will help people to open up.
  • Always be aware of peoples’ differences and respect that they are different. You can even learn a lot from peoples’ differences. What qualities do you respect in others that you don’t have (or have less off)? Ask for feedback and use this to your advantage.
  • Do something different: When deciding which team member to call upon to perform a specific task or assignment, choose someone you wouldn’t have immediately thought of. Make sure you do not always choose the same people.
  • When you hire someone new, don’t hire someone because (s)he is like the rest of the team, but because (s)he brings (new) value to the team.

In conclusion, diversity is the first powerful step, but it is in inclusion where the real magic lies.

I wish you all the best in whatever it is that you are doing. Dare to make a difference, embrace diversity with inclusion and you will be amazed by what you can do together.


Wendy de Wit is Quality Control Manager at Janssen Biologics, Johnson-Johnson.


Take a look at the agenda for the 3rdGlobal Bioprocessing, Bioanalytics and ATMP Manufacturing Congress taking place in Dublin, May 18th-19th. Covering the latest developments in next-generation biologics and advanced therapies, and providing a particular focus on the manufacturing and regulation of cell and gene therapies – this agenda is not one to be missed.

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