CERN Accelerating science

Geneviève Guinot and diversity - in it for the long-haul

Geneviève Guinot welcomes to her office, glass of water in her hand and smiling, her eyes betray a lively spirit where ideas fuse. Passionate about her work, we discover the energy that drives her and the diversity of the missions she accomplishes.

Let’s talk about Diversity. A crucial subject for CERN and an ongoing struggle that she led over 4 years, spanning from 2014 to 2018.

Staff Association: In summary, what has the Diversity Office achieved over the past four years?

Geneviève Guinot: The most visible is what was implemented during the last five-yearly review*, including: the recognition of a new family structure with equal benefits whether married or in a civil partnership, the improvement of family policy with the introduction of extended parental leave, the development of support to help spouses access employment opportunities, but also the development of telework and modifications to the system of leave without pay. This has changed not only our policies but mentalities too.

Additionally, we have developed networks in Europe, in particular with EIROforum to promote diversity and female representation in science. Diversity issues are increasingly present in society and business, and this has an influence on the Organization. I think that the work we have done has also been influential. A real change has taken place: I now see, for example, real cooperation between the "Education, Communication and Outreach" group, members of the personnel, especially physicists and engineers who are very committed to these issues, and the Diversity Office in organising events to encourage school girls to take an interest in science.

We have also responded to specific situations, particularly on the issue of disability, a long-term task that requires coordination with various CERN groups to deal with ergonomic, occupational safety and health and technical aspects. I really enjoy this aspect of my job and the impact for the people involved is enormous.

SA: What is it that you are most proud of and what struck you the most in your work as Head of Diversity?

GG: When I arrived at CERN, the verbal violence expressed in certain meetings shocked me. I am therefore particularly proud of the work that was done by the HR department, and all concerned, to give birth to CERN's current code of conduct.

Support for people with long-term illnesses (see Administrative Circular 14) has also been considerably improved with the introduction of regular, multidisciplinary monitoring to help them return to work more quickly, even part-time.

Finally, I should like to mention the work on the question of religion at CERN, which has made it possible to define the Organization's position on the subject. This was a complex process, which required a lot of discussion at all levels. It was also conducted in partnership with the Staff Association and representatives of the user community as well as other sectors, to bring the voice of CERN supervisors who are confronted on a daily basis with the realities to the forefront. In a single sentence to summarize the Organization's position: Religion is a private matter.

SA: Are there things that you regret not having had the time or the means to achieve before the handover?

GG: Yes, there is a qualitative and quantitative study I would have liked to carry out concerning young women in science. Why do we lose women before they apply for staff positions? We are seeing an increase in the proportion of women in the student and fellows group, but these good numbers do not materialize in the staff category. Why? We have to ask ourselves if CERN is attractive for women. Is our working environment properly adapted? Paradoxically, once women become tenured, figures do not detect any particular discrimination in their career progression.

Geneviève passed the torch on July 1st to Louise Carvalho who now becomes Head of the Diversity Office. The SA has enjoyed working with Geneviève on diversity issues and we wish her every success in her new responsibilities as Group Head of Compensation and Benefits. See you very soon, Geneviève!



More information on the CERN Diversity policy here