Catalyst Champion Diversity and Inclusion within the STEM sector

Catalyst Champion Diversity and Inclusion within the STEM sector

Catalyst is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which supports the growth of the knowledge economy in Northern Ireland through innovation, research, training, and development activity. The entrepreneurial eco-system created by the team is home to many STEM sector businesses.


Catalyst started their Diversity and Inclusion journey in 2018 and hold the Bronze Diversity Mark which has positively impacted upon their workforce.

Director of HR Shauna Collins gives us an insight to their Diversity and Inclusion journey thus far:

At Catalyst we are aware of the positive outcomes that can be achieved by bringing together diverse groups of people.  We not only want to foster and empower a culture of innovation, but also an environment where people can be their true, authentic self and thrive. Recognising the need to ensure that the principles of equality and diversity are practiced for the benefit of our staff and community alike was a key driver for joining the Diversity Mark accreditation programme.

After the highs of achieving our Bronze status in February 2020, we were very quickly thrust into the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been our biggest challenge, as like many others, we had to navigate our business through the crisis. However, as we embraced online collaboration and work practices, we were able to make progress on our Diversity and Inclusion targets in a more virtual world.  Our targets included objectives to better understand our gender makeup and assess whether any gender barriers existed within our recruitment processes.”

Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Organisational Culture

Catalyst recruited an Executive Team member to champion the Diversity and Inclusion agenda and ensure it is heard and addressed at the most senior levels within the organisation. Diversity and Inclusion is a regular topic of discussion at monthly board meetings. Relevant information and statistics are collated and presented to the board and used to inform strategic decisions including recruitment strategies.

In order to attract a more diverse pool of talent Catalyst needed to understand their recruitment trends. Analysis of application information from previous recruitment campaigns enabled the team to create a baseline, and critically review recruitment campaigns to ensure that they were gender neutral, with no barriers to application. Gender-neutral panels were put in place and staff members completed recruitment and selection training with a wider employee pool.

A review of Non-Executive recruitment was also completed, leading to the creation of a briefing document explicitly stating that the organisation welcomes applications from female applicants, who were underrepresented at Board level. Catalyst is delighted to have welcomed their first ever female Chair, hired based on merit, and fit for the role, regardless of gender.

Following improvements to Catalyst’s recruitment processes, the team continue to monitor processes to ensure that the increase of female applications continues. Using the learnings from recruitment research, the team plan to conduct further research into programme applications to ensure any learnings are shared.

In addition, members of the Catalyst team have attended events hosted by Diversity Mark, and participated in Unconscious Bias Training, and Diversity and Inclusion e-learning programmes. This has helped employees to enhance their knowledge of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion and implement best practice solutions within the work environment.

Catalyst CEO Steve Orr commented

“We are proud to be recognised by the Diversity Mark and it stands as a testament to our workplace philosophy where diversity is acknowledged and celebrated as a fundamental component of our culture.”

The team at Diversity Mark are excited about continuing to support Catalyst on their journey and sharing in their continued progress over the coming years.

Find out more about joining the Diversity Mark Accreditation programme.

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