The purpose of this guide is to provide advice and resources to help UKSEDS branches become more inclusive, with equality and diversity as core values. Across the space sector there is a clear lack of diversity and under-representation of minority groups Reference 1, Clickable Link to Resource. Space is an incredibly fascinating and broad area of research and innovation; anyone with a passion for it should be given equal opportunity to get involved and in a safe and inclusive environment.
UKSEDS is first and foremost a student society; it can be some people’s first introduction into space. Therefore, it’s important to be accessible and welcoming, encouraging anyone to get involved right from the start. As the space sector continues to grow it becomes even more imperative that the workforce is supported, cultivating an equal and diverse environment that promotes forward thinking. Hopefully by creating change at a student-level, we can spark change to better the wider space sector.
Diversity is the representation of all individuals regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or socio-economic background. Inclusion is promotion of equality and diversity, ie. putting accommodations in place that support the members of the community. Hopefully this handbook will instil an appreciation of the importance of creating welcoming spaces and provide you with the foundations in ensuring your branch is functioning in the most diverse and inclusive way possible. However, it’s not possible to cover the breadth of diversity and inclusion in one document, so we encourage you to look into it yourselves. It’s also worth being mindful that often there’s no one set way, with diversity and inclusion constantly evolving. The most important thing is to be respectful, tolerant and adaptive to your individual needs as a UKSEDS branch.
The start of an academic year for a university society will often involve a large intake of new students. For many, this may be a new and overwhelming experience, creating a welcoming environment is essential. This should be considered when advertising your society and for any initial/welcome events organised.
If your group is attending any society fairs, or giving promotional resources to students, ensure all displays/material are accessible. Consider aspects such as a large, clear and legible font with a non-obstructive background.
At your first event make sure all of your committee introduce themselves:
The first few events are vital in member retention, try to:
When telling new members about the society make an effort to say that it’s important that everyone is welcome and the society is inclusive for all people - discrimination of any kind cannot be tolerated.
When communicating with members of your branch, either verbally or in writing, it is important to use inclusive language. Any piece of communication that is sent out should not exclude any of your audience.
Social media plays a crucial role in diversity and inclusion, showcasing the core values of your branch. It’s important that all posts via social media are easily accessible and represent a wide range of people. This provides a welcoming space for your audience; any bullying or harassment online should not be tolerated.
Text-to-speech capability in posts allows the content of a post to be converted to audio. This makes content accessible to people who cannot read written language Reference 3, Clickable Link to Resource
Adding image descriptions on social media
Video posts should include subtitles where possible. If this is not possible, a transcript or description of the video can be included in a follow up post, or in the caption. Transcripts can be generated in Microsoft Teams
When posting about people in the space sector, make sure you are spotlighting a diverse group of people. There is a clear lack of diversity and under-representation of most minority groups, but there are still many of those people available to spotlight, so do some research. Ensure that posts focus on their achievements regardless of identity.
Raising awareness for visibility days allows for the inclusion of existing members and potential members
Some standard awareness dates to consider
Careful consideration into accessibility must be taken when planning events. This is particularly important for large-scale events such as conferences, competitions, speaker events, etc. If venues/resources are limited it can be difficult to have a fully accessible event, but where possible measures should be taken to make the event as accessible and inclusive as possible. As a general guide, please see the attached checklist.
For events involving speakers or panelists, try to consider the diversity of those involved. Are you representing a broad scope of people? Aspects to consider are:
Make sure the main focus is still on their career and achievements, unless it’s specifically a diversity and inclusion event. A diverse range of backgrounds should be represented regardless of the event.
In most universities there will be associations and societies dedicated to representing minority groups, either in STEM or general university life. Collaborating with these groups may bring in a more diverse member base into your branch, as well as support the existing members.
Examples of societies that may exist at your university/college:
In most venues male and female toilets are standard. However, it should also be considered if disabled toilets are available. These should be easily accessible and if possible, include separate gender-neutral facilities. This may be limited by university buildings, but should be considered where possible, particularly for external venues. Toilets available and their location should be signposted in any introductory talks at the start event. Organisers/attendees need to be respectful of everyone and never assume which bathroom someone should use.
Although networking and social events are a great opportunity to network and learn from others, it is important to recognise that a busy setting can cause individuals to experience heightened stress levels and anxiety. Consider providing a separate quiet room or suggesting possible areas to go if someone needs space - these should be signposted at the start of the event. Breakout zones help to support the wellbeing of all event attendees, giving them a place to temporarily disengage from the rest of the event, until they feel ready to join in again.
By indicating pronouns through badges/stickers it easily communicates among attendees which pronouns they use. All attendees should be encouraged to use these indicators, regardless of whether or not they think their gender “should be obvious”. Pronoun badges normalise not assuming someone’s gender and create an inclusive environment for trans and non-gender conforming individuals Reference 4, Clickable Link to Resource
Main options to include
Ways to indicate pronouns:
Colour communication badges allow people to express their communication preference, which supports people who may have anxiety regarding communication at networking-focussed events. This system has been adopted in several UKSEDS events, and has been described in detail by The Autistic Self Advocacy Network Reference 5, Clickable Link to Resource
Some people with disabilities need some adjustments to be made to help them get the most out of an event. Should someone request a reasonable adjustment to be made, don’t attempt to find out the exact nature of their impairment/disability. Some people are comfortable talking about it, while others would prefer to keep it private and to only communicate their accessibility needs.
If possible, try to implement the following accessibility guidelines regardless of any requests being made, this will help the event feel more comfortable and inclusive for everyone.
There are a wide range of mobility issues and it is important to ensure that any venue hosting an event is capable of accommodating any of these mobility requirements.
People identifying as d/Deaf could range from those who have mild hearing loss to those who have no hearing at all. In general, ‘Deaf’ is used by people who were born deaf and for whom being deaf is a core part of their identity, while 'deaf' is used more often by people whose hearing has deteriorated over time. Not all d/Deaf people use assistive technology to hear, and those that do, may not be comfortable communicating in oral English. Assistive technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants are not a perfect replacement for hearing, many d/Deaf people still have trouble talking to other people, especially in a noisy environment.
People who are visually imparied range from people who are colourblind to people who have completely lost sight.
Including a Diversity/Welfare Officer into your committee may help improve the diversity and inclusion of your branch. Advantages and roles of a diversity/welfare officer may include
As well as creating an inclusive environment for your members, it’s also important to make sure you're supporting each other as a committee:
For many, the guidance outlined in this document may make very little difference to their overall experience of your society. However, for some people, actions towards improving diversity and inclusion at a branch-level may be the difference between them getting involved and attending events, versus them ignoring all future society activities. Putting accommodations into place helps to support your members and show them that you care about making their experience as good as possible; failure to do so risks alienating them.
If you have any questions about the advice contained in this handbook, or have suggestions on how it can be improved, please contact us at [email protected]