Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion into Conferences and Events
The University of Glasgow’s ‘inspiring people’ strategy makes equality a focus for the University community. The checklist below has been put together to help you to embed consideration of diversity and inclusion issues in the events that you run.
If you receive funding for an event from the University, we expect you to incorporate as many of these principles into your event as possible: we accept, of course, that often it won’t be possible to incorporate them all. We also expect that you will report on how you are doing this and any unforeseen challenges or barriers as part of the application process and final reporting.
Event organisers should ensure their diversity and unconscious bias training is up to date and consider the following areas:
Diversity of speakers
Consider the wider diversity of the conference speakers, including ethnicity, disability, and age. Make reasonable attempts to secure a diverse line-up of speakers; this aim can be more easily met by having a balance of reserve candidates, consulting potential speakers before the final date is set, and contacting speakers sufficiently in advance to allow childcare arrangements to be made. There is some useful discussion on this topic here and resources to promote speaker diversity in STEM fields.
Make the conference fully accessible; this includes giving due consideration to all accessibility requirements for disabled speakers and attendees. The Accessible Event Policy and Checklist will assist with this aim. Ensure that your booking form invites participants to identify any accessible requirements, such as British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters, hearing loops, or provision of conference materials in alternative formats. All speakers should use microphones, with roving mics for audience Q&A. It helps to make this clear to participants in advance, so they do not just assume that because they have a loud voice they can be heard without the microphone.
If possible, make conference presentations available online in advance (ensuring they are readable by a screen reader and suitable for those with colour vision deficiency). Consider using alternative methods for asking questions, such as slido, which is more inclusive as the ‘loudest’ person doesn’t always get the floor. Presentations can include alternate text for visual elements (for screen readers) and should use bold, large and sans-serif fonts in contrasting colours. Use the accessibility checker on documents and slides.
Consider that participants may feel uncomfortable if asked to stay seated or standing for long time frames. Provide alternatives, regular breaks and also be open about it being acceptable to get up and move around. Take into consideration that, if the networking (or lunch) session is envisaged as a standing event, it will not be at eye level for wheelchair users, and it will be challenging for someone with a mobility aid to eat while juggling a plate. Some seated networking and table service for meals may be required.
Some participants may require an assistant and their place at the conference should be free of charge.
Consider providing livestreaming and opportunity to interact via twitter or other remote means.
Avoid making last minute changes to times or venue and advertise times well in advance to allow travel planning.
Provide accurate information on accessibility in advance of your conference, as this gives people time to contact you in advance with details of their requirements. For example, outline whether there are steps to the venue, the locations of toilets (including gender neutral facilities), lifts or disabled parking, if a quiet area will be available or if water is freely available. Make use of the University’s Accessibility information and maps.
Consider the images that you use to promote your event, by incorporating diversity in your materials and, if using images on social media or webpages, ensure that alternate text is used.
Promotional videos should be subtitled. The University provides guidance on accessibility for videos.
All web content should comply with the EU Digital Accessibility Regulations. If you are developing a website out with the University’s web design (T4) you should check your design is accessible. Ensure there is alternate text for images (including in images used on twitter).
Review the language that you use in your written materials to ensure that it is inclusive and welcoming to all (including those for whom English is not a first language): avoid jargon, use short sentences, and consider ways to aid readability by adjusting the font and font size, the contrast of text and paper, or by making use of white space or bullet points.
Consider providing a crèche for the duration of the conference (Research & Innovation Services can provide outline costs), running it at a hotel with a crèche facility or making other adjustments that will allow those with children to attend (e.g. allowing partners to attend or provision of breastfeeding facilities). Or provide opportunity to access remotely as above.
Consider the timing of events – e.g. where possible, avoid school holidays, religious festivals and Fridays (Friday is a day that is commonly not worked and additionally it can pose problems for colleagues of particular faiths).
Core working hours are 10am–4pm and therefore scheduling outside of these hours may mean that colleagues cannot attend.
If an early evening networking is scheduled, care should be taken to also include networking time during the day.
Gather dietary requirements in advance of your event. Ensure that the food and drink served are suitable for a variety of dietary requirements, and that networking time includes non-alcoholic alternatives. Take into account whether your conference is taking place during Ramadan. If participants are fasting, you may wish to offer them access to food at a later point in the day, a quiet room at lunchtime away from the food, or a discount on their ticket to allow them to make their own arrangements.
Identify the nearest reflection/prayer facilities and highlight these within the conference literature. On-campus facilities are available from the Chaplaincy website.
Chairing and ensuring the conference is a safe space, free from bullying and harassment
Consider the format and chairing of the event to encourage participation in the Q&A sessions from the entire audience, rather than simply the most confident. The British Philosophical Society has some useful guidance on this.
Consider developing a Code of Conduct for your conference, to ensure that all participants understand what is expected and what will happen if someone does something in breach of the Code.
Let us know if you have other suggestions. We are particularly interested in hearing about resources or good practice (or what to avoid) for remote participation in conferences and networking events.
Best Practice Guide, Developing Inclusive Conferences, University of Oxford
12 September 2019
Contact: Research and Innovation Services
9 June 2017