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EMBL book club: a forum for diverse perspectives

The club provides a social outlet for EMBLers with a social conscience

Book club meeting
EMBL bookworms: (left to right) Sonja Blasche, Samantha Seah, Anusha Gopalan and Denes Turei. PHOTO: Kinga Lubowiecka/EMBL

Hands up if your New Year’s resolution is to read more books in 2020. Or to become more engaged with societal issues. Or simply to get out of the lab or office and make new friends. EMBL’s Feminism in Science book club offers a great opportunity to tick all of those boxes.

Inspired by the STEMMinist Book Club on Twitter, PhD student Samantha Seah started the book club at EMBL Heidelberg in the summer of 2019. The club meets every two to three months, and members vote on which books to read. The choices so far have been Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – an exploration of data bias and the gender data gap – and Superior by Angela Saini, which addresses racism in science.

A safe space for discussion

Samantha started the club to create a space for people to come together to discuss feminism, activism, racism and other societal issues in a respectful, inclusive and safe environment. It’s been a positive experience, she says: “I’ve met new people and had really good conversations with them. I would have read these books anyway, but it’s so much better when you can have a discussion about them. It makes you think more about the issues, and I also learned a lot through the discussions. It’s good to be exposed to other opinions.”

Other members have also provided positive feedback:

“Feminism in science is a cause that I want to learn more about and be a part of. So far, the book club has introduced me to three fantastic books and a handful of brilliant colleagues with whom I can discuss them. Our meetings are very informal and non-judgmental, welcoming diverse opinions and criticism. And importantly, beyond the book at hand, the discussions often lead on to other aspects of our work and lives, where we all benefit from each other‘s perspectives.“
Anusha Gopalan

“Although a lot has changed for women in recent decades, there are still many things that need improvement. Interpersonal exchange about books on feminist topics allows me to learn about other people‘s experiences and compare them with my own. Women are diverse, and so are their perceptions, needs and aims. I hope that this book club will help to keep the debate vivid and the topic present in people’s minds.“
Sonja Blasche

“I joined the book club because I always find that Samantha has interesting points to make on the subject of diversity and inclusivity, and these points are always backed up by facts. I find these topics interesting but I often feel that I‘ve not read enough to make an informed opinion. Being part of the book club means I get exposed to books from a variety of authors whom I might not otherwise encounter.“
Martine Ballinger

Books
Up for discussion at the EMBL book club: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. PHOTO: Kinga Lubowiecka/EMBL

The next meeting of the book club takes place at 15:00 on Thursday 16 January in the staff lounge in the cafeteria. The books for discussion are Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments.

To subscribe to the mailing list, contact Samantha Seah (samantha.seah@embl.de). New members are welcome!

Tags: activism, Book club, diversity, feminism, inclusion

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