The pressing need for allyship – Cancer Research UK

What motivated you to set that up?

I am fortunate enough to have a brilliant colleague in the school of infection and immunity at the University of Glasgow, Megan MacLeod who set up a similar showcase for women in immunology. When I joined the CRUK SI I joined the committee organising this event and saw how inspiring students and postdocs in my lab found the event. In fact, the showcase was one of the highlights of the year for many trainees across the University immunology community.

Once we started having a more normal schedule of events following return to work from lock-down I thought it would be a great opportunity to adapt the event for cancer sciences. Megan was hugely generous in providing guidance and advice to help us to refashion the event for our institute and our first year was a huge success.

This demonstrates your incredible allyship for women scientists – why is it you see this as an important part of research culture, and what can others do to champion groups that might benefit from it?

I think that this event is a good start and moves us in the right direction but also believe that I and the wider institute can do more.

I think that it is important that our bar for allyship is raised as this type of activity should not be considered an incredible act; furthermore while larger events and initiatives are important to change things at an institutional level it is arguably more important to engage in everyday allyship.

I’m not an expert, nor do I believe I have the answers, but I think that those of us who are provided with a platform need to ensure we create space for everyone to speak and to make sure that we listen especially when it is uncomfortable. In this way we can start to make research more inclusive by helping remove barriers or to promote initiatives which we may previously have not even been aware of.

Ultimately, it sounds like a cliché, but however you want to be an ally I believe needs to start with actively listening and building coalitions. Then we need to remember that any initiative is like any other experiment we run, we need to monitor the outcomes to check we are achieving the desired effects and, even more critically, to ensure we aren’t causing any unintended issues. If we don’t do this, it is easy to pat ourselves on the back for doing something nice but which is ultimately not achieving much.

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