Wellcome has made insufficient progress in addressing racism at the organisation, with an evaluation finding that it remains institutionally racist two years after it publicly recognised the fact.
At the time, Wellcome pledged to become an anti-racist organisation, with a programme of work including the creation of anti-racist principles and an anti-racist toolkit, anti-racism training for staff, and an external evaluation of progress as a research funder and employer.
This week saw an evaluation of the programme shared with staff. Despite finding “some positive behavioural and practice shifts” it concludes that “there has been insufficient action taken to allow this commitment to take root”.
Findings included:Institutional racism continues to exist due to “cultural, structural and leadership deficits across the organisation”.Wellcome has not made sufficient progress since June 2020 and is perpetuating systemic racism within the wider research sector.Lack of diversity in senior leadership is impeding progress.25% of staff identifying as Black and people of colour agree or strongly agree they have been treated unfairly or discriminated against due to an aspect of their identity. 20% of staff identifying as Black and people of colour experienced racist or classist comments targeted at them or regular microaggressions.Staff identifying as Black and people of colour are carrying the burden of creating change, with a heavy reliance on staff network groups.The anti-racism toolkit and training have so far failed to have a positive impact.
The evaluation confirms feedback from staff and advisers, such as an external anti-racism expert advisory group appointed in November 2020, who resigned in March this year.
Areas of positive practice within Wellcome highlighted in the report include in the funder’s mental health team and its data for science and health team.
Commenting, Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome said:
“Wellcome is still doing too little to use its power and influence to counter racism. We have fallen short of commitments made to colleagues and to the research community. As a consequence of us not doing more and not acting sooner, Wellcome remains an institutionally racist organisation.
“Wellcome has played and continues to play a role in sustaining racism both in its own operations and in the wider research sector. I am sorry for the actions and inactions behind this, and the hurt and disappointment these have caused.
“It’s clear that unacceptable behaviour still exists at Wellcome. The leadership team, like so many of our colleagues at Wellcome, are determined to change this. We will do better.”
In response, Wellcome has announced further actions, including:Positive action principles will be applied to its funding decision-making process to ensure that when applications are similar in merit, Wellcome favours those which add to the diversity of the pool of people it supports. A dedicated funding stream for researchers who are Black and people of colour, targeted at the career stages where this will have the greatest benefits for diversity.A new equity, diversity and inclusion role at executive level, reporting to the director, to lead on Wellcome’s internal and external work on equity, diversity and inclusion, including a specific focus on anti-racism, and on implementing and extending Wellcome’s existing diversity and inclusion strategy, launched in 2021.
“Our existing approaches to grant funding are not delivering equity. We’re now clear that we won’t be successful in improving equity in our research funding, and thereby in tackling structural racism in the research sector, without taking positive action.
“The question remaining for us is not whether we do this, but the details of how we do it. We are now focusing on these implementation questions, engaging and listening to those with lived experience and to our partners in the sector as we do so”