Diversity at CERN: a hallmark and a core organisational value


Anna Cook explains why CERN believes that diversity is so important to its task of uncovering the secrets of the universe and matter

CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research is one of the largest scientific experiments in the world. Unravelling the mysteries of the universe is a big task, and one of the reasons that experts come to CERN – to test themselves, push their abilities and help create history with ground-breaking discoveries. But this is not just about physics. The engineering and technical skills needed to make the experiments succeed are as world-class as the science behind them.

Sitting astride the Franco-Swiss border, funded by 22 Member States, it is where the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. These particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light and the process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature. CERN is also very well known as the birthplace of the World Wide Web, and is today a real hub for computing engineering with projects and challenges which defy the imagination.

Every day, thousands of collaborators work side by side, overground and underground to push the boundaries of science and engineering. And what makes this place so special is not only its unique scientific objective, but also the sheer diversity of the people involved across all dimensions, from nationality, culture, age and gender to skills sets, professions and backgrounds.

CERN is among other things the birthplace of the World Wide Web

Diversity, or the bringing together of people from different countries and cultures to work on a common goal, has been an integral part of CERN’s mission since its foundation and is one of CERN’s five core values alongside integrity, creativity, commitment and  professionalism. A dedicated diversity office was established at CERN in 2011 and its programme is built on CERN’s tradition as an equal opportunities employer. The associated Diversity Policy is based on the three principles of “appreciating differences, fostering equality and promoting collaboration” which are drawn from CERN’s Diversity value. The policy aims at achieving an optimally diverse workforce; the creativity and innovation that comes from a diversity of ideas and perspectives; and a work environment that reflects the diversity value in all policies, procedures and practice.

The Diversity Programme is embedded in the organisation’s Human Resource Strategy and operates in collaboration with the various HR and other services to ensure that the diversity principles are applied across the three axes of recruitment, career development and work environment. Female representation across all CERN programmes, professional, graduate and staff has hovered around the 20-25% mark for many years and dedicated efforts, campaigns and initiatives thrive to ensure this trend evolves positively. In recent months, alongside many other scientific and engineering organisations, CERN has participated in virtual career fairs organised by companies who have made the focus on women in technology a centrepiece of their campaigns. CERN is also a member of the International Gender Champions Geneva Initiative, a leadership network that brings together decision makers who commit to promote gender equality. All gender champions sign a panel parity pledge for gender balance when inviting experts for panel discussions.

On the occasion of the Gender in Physics day organised as part of the EU-funded Gender Equality Network in the European Research Area (GENERA) last year, CERN’s President of Council, Sijbrand de Jong stated: “Whenever we look at diversity issues, it is far too easy for those in the majority to think “this is not for me”, whereas actually it very much is. Diversity is always an issue for the majority, and in science, where there are still many more men than women, it is just as important for the men to enable women to progress as it is for the women to make their way.”

CERN is a great place to work and diversity is clearly one of the main reasons for that, as are challenge, purpose, collaboration, imagination and quality of life. The diversity of the professional challenges and opportunities on offer are yet another illustration of this pervasive concept. Every year, CERN hires hundreds of students, graduates and professionals to take part in this endeavour in domains ranging from electronics and electricity to computing, electricity, mechanics, IT, applied physics, vacuum, cooling and ventilation, safety, radioprotection, survey engineering, process operation, and many more. For Maite Barroso Lopez, CERN IT Deputy Department Head, “working at CERN as a computing engineer is a very exciting, varied and stimulating experience. This can lead you to work in a great number of areas, spanning from data processing and storage, networks and support for the LHC and non-LHC experimental programme, as well as to services for the accelerator complex and for the whole laboratory and its users. We also provide a ground for advanced research and development of new IT technologies, with partners from other research institutions and industry. At CERN, new computing challenges keep coming at a very steady pace!”

Anna Cook is head of recruitment at CERN

So could this be the place for your next career step? Check it out and take part. http://careers.cern.