Wellcome ‘still an institutionally racist organisation’, report finds

Global charitable foundation Wellcome has apologised and pledged to act after a damning report slammed its efforts to tackle racism within its own organisation.

Two years ago, the charity made a commitment to being an anti-racist organisation after Black staff criticised inclusion within the organisation.

Concerns were also raised that Black funding applicants were less likely to be awarded grants.

But evaluation of the charity’s work to tackle racism since 2020 has revealed that since this promise to act “institutional racism has been allowed to fester within the organisation”,

It found that “there has been insufficient action taken to allow this commitment to take root”, which is “due to a myriad of cultural and structural factors, many of which serve to disproportionately impact” Black staff and grantees.

“Similarly, we also find that through harmful action and inaction, Wellcome is perpetuating and exacerbating systemic racism within the wider research sector which it operates,” the evaluation report adds.

The Charity’s director Jeremy Farrar has apologised for the “actions and inactions” that have caused institutional racism and “for the pain and disappointment it has led to”.

“The evaluation includes some descriptions of unacceptable racist behaviours and reading about these may be hurtful to those who have experienced them,” he said.

“This lived experience provides insights that will advance and enhance our anti-racism work.”

‘I was unable to thrive here’

One former employee detailed in her exit interview that she “had a series of negative experiences at Wellcome and I was unable to thrive here”.

“Many of these negative experiences (including issues related to career progression and pay) were linked to my identity as a Woman of Colour,” she said.

“This was recognised and acknowledged by more senior individuals within my team and these issues were not addressed sufficiently.”

The evaluation also found that “diversity has improved at staff levels in recent years”. But it notes that this improvement has not taken place “at the leadership level”.

Action promised

Action pledged over the next year includes favouring grant applications that “add to the diversity of the pool of people we support”.

In addition, a dedicated stream of funding will be available to researchers “who are Black and people of colour”.

Farrar added: “We will be announcing more detail about each of these measures over the coming months, as we develop the mechanisms by which they will be implemented.”

“If there are to be any changes to our application processes, we will advise grant seekers in advance.”

Other action includes appointing a new member to the charity’s executive leadership team responsible for equity, diversity, and inclusion, who will report directly to Farrar.

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