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Consigning intolerance to history


Fabiola Gianotti is the Director-General of CERN.

Towards a future in which all forms of intolerant behaviour can truly be consigned to history

CERN is a diverse, tolerant and respectful place to work, but we are not immune to the kind of blatantly sexist behaviour that should have been consigned to history a long time ago. Three recent events unfortunately show that unacceptable intolerant behaviour can still rear its ugly head at CERN.

The three cases involved a pregnant woman being told that she should not be at work, wolf-whistling in a public place, and a young female researcher being subjected to repeated sexist behaviour in the workplace. For the vast majority of us, that is a cause for concern, and should we witness such behaviour, it is our duty to do something.

The CERN Code of Conduct, launched in 2010, lays out clearly how we should behave at work, how we should treat others, and how we can expect to be treated by our colleagues. It is all about mutual respect and understanding. Through the Code of Conduct, supervisors are expected to create and nurture a positive and inclusive work environment, free from discrimination and respectful of difference. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that diversity is cherished as a fundamental value of this Organization, with zero tolerance for sexist, homophobic or racist behaviour.

So what should we do if we witness or are subject to behaviour that goes against the Code of Conduct? As witnesses, we should gently intervene to show our support for the victim, and not stand idly by. If we witness the kind of unthinking casual sexism, racism or homophobia that is unfortunately still too prevalent in today’s society, we might have a quiet word with the perpetrator. And whether witness or victim, we should report the incident, since it is only by doing so that we can address the underlying issues.

There are many ways to report incidents of unacceptable behaviour. You can report them to your supervisor, to the Ombudsperson, to the Diversity Office, to the Medical Service, to your HR contact, or to the Social Affairs Service. You can also simply fill in an incident report on the CERN Service Portal. Notwithstanding the three recent incidents, intolerant behaviour is fortunately very rare at CERN. Nevertheless, every incident is a serious breach of the Code of Conduct and, for the victims, every incident is distressing. So let’s work together towards a future in which all forms of intolerant behaviour can truly be consigned to history.