Polar Pride in Parliament – Glaciologist speaks to MPs and Lords

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At an event celebrating the 4th annual Polar Pride Day on Monday, Dr James Lea from the School of Environmental Sciences spoke to over 30 MPs and Lords in the Houses of Parliament about the contributions of LGBTQ+ polar scientists and why Pride is important for everyone being able to do better research.

Dr Lea was part of a line up of speakers alongside representatives from the Foreign Office, British Antarctic Survey and UK Antarctic Heritage Trust who shared their personal experiences of working in the polar regions. Each speaker spoke of the positive real-world impacts that creating inclusive research environments in the office and in the field have had on both themselves and non-LGBTQ+ colleagues.

Dr Lea highlighted to Parliamentarians that while there may have been improvements over the last decade in LGBTQ+ inclusivity in polar research, the situation is still far from perfect.

He said: “Those who identify as LGBTQ+ are still significantly under-represented in polar science compared to the rest of the population”, also highlighting that “shifts in societal and cultural attitudes in the UK and overseas have in some cases led to discriminatory behaviour being emboldened both within research and in our day to day lives.”

When asked why events like Polar Pride Day were important, Dr Lea responded: “It’s a fantastic opportunity to celebrate of the contribution of LGBTQ+ researchers to polar science, but I think more importantly it acts as a reminder to everybody that there is much progress yet to be made.”

To read Dr Lea’s short article for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Polar Regions on “Why Pride Matters for doing better Polar Research” click here.

About #PolarPride: Recognising the need to try to enhance representation across the UK Polar community, in 2019 the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) instigated the Diversity in Polar Science Initiative, and in 2020 the Governments of the British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands declared the first #PolarPride day on 18 November. #PolarPride has grown into an internationally recognised event, to celebrate and support the contribution of the LGBTQ+ community working on Polar matters.