How can we ensure academic and science events are more inclusive of diversity? Diversity encompasses issues of equity, inclusion, accessibility and intersectionality (the interconnection between gender and racial inequality alongisde other social disadvantages). Here are some tips to ensure your event supports the full participation of everyone


Equity and inclusion

Equity is a concept illustrating ways to identify barriers, issues and solutions to structural disadvantage. To challenge equity issues when we organise academic and science events (and other types of public debates and protest), we should start by asking ourselves: who should lead?

Some tips for thinking critically about equity and leadership include these considerations:

  • Leadership should reflect and reinforce diversity
  • Centre Indigenous leadership
  • Recruit other people of colour
  • Bring in disability experts
  • Ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) representation, especially transgender people
  • Value experienced social movement organisers
  • Consult with equity and diversity practitioners
  • Target specialist members, from junior to senior scientists.


Inclusion is about actively seeking out, valuing and respecting differences.

Luke Briscoe, CEO of Indigilab presented the Indigenous Declaration of Science during the first March for Science in Sydney, 2017 (in the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation). He then talked about damage of coloniaslim alongside the contributions that Indigenous people make to various science practices despite entrenched racism, exclusion and disadvantage. The Indigenous Declaration of Science expands on the following points:

  • Deep knowledges of Indigenous people
  • Cultural frameworks of respect, reciprocity, responsibility and healing
  • Communities have been abused as research subjects, and continue to suffer the most today
  • Symbiosis of collaboration.

On the final point, the Declaration states:

We envision a productive symbiosis between Indigenous and Western knowledges that serve our shared goals of sustainability for land and culture. This symbiosis requires mutual respect for the intellectual sovereignty of both Indigenous and Western sciences.

The Australian March for Science did not not live up to this Declaration, and neither did most satellite marches around the world. Most of these events failed to have at least one Indigenous scientist speaking, and few had Indigenous members on their committees.

For individuals wishing to address inclusion, some initial things to address:

  • Carefully consider event coordination to embrace inclusion
  • Publish clear equity and diversity statement at event launch
  • Regularly promote anti-harassment policies
  • Address safety for the event, especially for minorities
  • Form partnerships with existing social movements
  • Strategically promote event to minority communities
  • Remain flexible and use feedback from vulnerable groups
  • Craft an inclusive communication strategy, including for social media.


Access and intersectionality

Access is about creating, measuring and redesigning opportunities to enhance participation by underrepresented groups.

When should you address issues of access for your academic science event? From the first day of planning to the day of the event, demonstrate active commitment!

  • Disabled experts must have decision-making power
  • Accessibility planning prior to venue choice
  • Disabled people to test venue/path prior to announcing site
  • Consult accessibility needs of diverse minority groups
  • Ensure all promotion materials are accessible
  • Incorporate hearing loops, closed captions, sign interpreters
  • Craft “virtual” resources with accessibility in mind
  • Don’t automatically schedule disabled speakers first
  • Consider timing of activities, rest stops, quiet areas and other needs
  • Incorporate other practical accomodations, such as for catering and venue maps, and paper schedules, as some conference apps are inacessible.


The concept of intersectionality addressses how gender and racial inequalities are interconnected (Crenshaw 1989). This interrelationship of disadvantage in turn compounds other forms of social exclusion related to sexuality, disability, class, age, and so on. Intersectionality is central to understanding why science is not an even playing field.

Having a strong understanding and application of intersectionality will enable event organisers to:

  • Actively manage diversity to ensure everyone feels safe, welcome and represented
  • Proactively lead on structural inequities
  • Use photos, visuals, language and symbols in ways that properly reflect diversity
  • Equally reward of the work done by volunteers, especially minorities
  • Consider equity and diversity as part of media training
  • Effectively moderate of online discussions about your event, and take responsibility for hate speech by followers
  • Take away emotional labour load from people of colour
  • Apologise for mistakes and reflection by leaders on how to stop harm in future
  • Address the issues affecting underrepresented scientists as part of core business
  • Use White privilege constructively: don’t leave minorities of colour behind.

Questions for us

Let’s consider some questions on how to improve planning, delivery and promotion of our events:

  • Would I know true equity when I see it?
  • How can I better support inclusion?
  • How I can make my next event accessible?
  • How can I begin to practice intersectionality in event planning?
  • What scientific discourse do I contribute to?
  • What will I do to address racism?
  • Where does my privilege intersect with someone’s oppression? (Oluo 2017)

Learn More

This resource was developed from my lecture to the Women in Science Network at the University of Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand. They hosted me in September 2017 to reflect on intersectionality issues arising from the March for Science. See the presentation below, and read the full script and references on my blog.

Download the free double-sided A4 poster of the above graphics to promote inclusion in your workplace events.

Accessibility: read descriptions of the graphics/poster on my blog.


To cite this article:

Zevallos, Z. (2018) ‘How to Support Equity and Diversity in Academic and Science Events,’ The Other Sociologist, 17 June. Online resource:

This is a living document and I will add resources over time.