Diversity and Inclusion spotlight – February 2024

In this month’s Diversity and Inclusion update, Jo Lee, data scientist in the Department for Health and Social Care, celebrates the International day of women and girls in science, sharing her insights and motivations:

“This month we are celebrating Women in Science. Almost 10 years ago, I completed a PhD in Computational Biochemistry, studying in a building on Dorothy Hodgkin Road. At the time, I didn’t sufficiently appreciate that these women scientists, such as Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, truly were inspirational leaders. The single Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry in 1954, Crowfoot Hodgkin determined the structure of insulin. Now I find inspiration from them and what motivates me, as a leader in analysis, is their singular determination to keep building their knowledge and expertise, for scientific advancement in their field.

I have several women scientist role models who continue to influence my leadership. Particularly, how adversity does not deter these leaders meaning that they continue to drive towards their scientific achievements. They remain on message, advocating for their research findings and convincing sceptical scientific communities. I role model my own leadership on this, collaborating to build my understanding of the evidence, and using that understanding to shape my own advocacy for evidence to support policy decisions. For example, Jane Goodall whose work on chimpanzees changed our perception of animals when she observed chimpanzees using tools – previous academic theory thought tools were only used by humans. Another, Kathryn Johnson was a mathematician for NASA and whose calculations were integral to the first American spaceflight after joining NASA as a ‘computer’ in the all-black West Area Computing.

Why is science important for government analysts? We are continually influenced by academic work, who provide us with the evidence of the causes of policy issues, or whose evaluations evidence what interventions can best overcome those policy issues. Further, the rigour with which they tackle research guides our on analytical projects: forming our research question; defining hypotheses for us to test; and providing us with methodologies to determine if your hypotheses were correct. A more representative academic community, matching our population, brings in new perspectives and challenges previous theories, serving to augment our knowledge.

As leaders in analysis, we can keep building this momentum to encourage the next generation of analytical leaders. Keep talking about your inspirational women leaders – one of mine is Professor Lucy Chappell, the Chief Scientific Advisor at the Department for Health and Social Care who is also a consultant and Professor of Obstetrics. Reinforce the contribution of these women in science, their importance, and normalise their involvement in pivotal scientific findings to grow the confidence of the next generation of women to take similar career paths.”