Leader: Diversity and Inclusion


All views expressed are my own.

As I begin as the Diversity Champion for The Operational Research Society I wanted to say thank you to Sayara Beg for all that she achieved in her tenure. I pick up the baton in full agreement with her assertion that success in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) needs a focussed programme of effort, promoting cultural change.

Everyone’s view on what diversity, inclusion, equality and equity means can vary, depending on experiences, so I thought it might be useful to briefly share my understanding and I look forward to building with you a common understanding for ORS to go forward with.

A key factor in the success of any D&I programme is to understand that diversity and inclusion come hand in hand. We need to nurture a welcoming culture of inclusion as well as embracing diversity of thought, so it can feel like an enormous task. Therefore, I want to use my time as Diversity Champion to support ORS to help get to the heart of its key issues in both diversity and inclusion, then target our efforts for the best impact. This means having a deeper understanding of where we are now, and where we want to be, which includes having meaningful data.

Nicola Morrill (2).jpg

“If you want a strong society, it has to be inclusive.”
Cyndi Lauper

What does this mean for you?

This journey starts with each individual taking a community approach to D&I, seeing it not just as an optional extra, but a strategic and ethical imperative that will ultimately benefit us all and create a fantastic culture. I hope that you will become actively involved in making the ORS and OR as diverse and inclusive as possible.

Why bother with D&I?

I am often asked why bother with D&I? First, it’s the right thing to do; we all deserve to have our voices heard and have equal chance to fulfil our potential; secondly, it’s good for business, particularly innovation. There is a plethora of research to support this: for example, a Boston Consulting Group study (1) found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation. Professor Scott Page’s (2) (mathematical modelling) work demonstrates how diversity creates better groups, firms, schools and societies. As a parent myself, I can personally vouch for research that also highlights the importance of flexible working both for well-being (3), gender equality, as well as personal and team effectiveness (4). These are just some reasons for the benefits of a successful D&I programme, there are many more!

Where are we now?

Since taking up the role, I have formally agreed both the terms of reference for the ORS Diversity Champion and a term length of 2.5 years. We need to ensure diversity in the Diversity Champion role! We also now have dedicated support from Fliss McLeister for some of her time. This is great news to help us progress and will be key for continuity as the Diversity Champion changes.

What’s next?

We also have plans in place to make further progress against the Science Council diversity framework. I have also discovered that the ORS has many initiatives underway – we plan to improve coherence and visibility of these, ensuring it is accessible for all.
It’s now time for us to plan what we would like to achieve in the next few years and I aim to:

  • Create a common view of where we are and where we
    are heading
  • Establish the ORS Diversity and Inclusion programme
  • Hasten our progress against the Science Council
    Diversity Framework
  • Continue to reach out and link the ORS with other key
    diversity initiatives
  • Use our collective knowledge and data to prioritise where we need to start first.
  • Identify and progress the one to two big things that matter to us

This is where you step in.

Your voice and contribution

A key place I need to start is understanding our data and listening to what you have to say about diversity and inclusion within The OR Society. I would like your input into my plan for priorities throughout my tenure.

What differences do you want to see over the next 2.5 years? What should our one big thing be? What will you do? In line with other learned societies, we are issuing a diversity questionnaire – thank you very much to the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications for letting us use their questionnaire as a basis for ours. We’ve added some questions specific to the ORS to help us understand your priorities.

The questionnaire is anonymous and will be open until 06 April 2020 and will be sent to you via an email to complete. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


As OR people we know how difficult it is to get good survey response rates, but conversely how useful the data is in understanding the challenges we are addressing. I would be very grateful if you could fill in the survey and encourage others to do the same.

Your questionnaire returns will help improve our diversity data baseline, which helps us understand how well the ORS represents the OR community amongst other things. Coupled with your thoughts on how we could improve we will start to build a richer understanding of how included different communities feel and what the forward programme needs to address.

Examples of feedback collected from the recent Women in OR and Analytics event on how to make our events more inclusive include: holding more events away from London; varying days and times to accommodate part-time workers; advertising grants to support attendance; and providing childcare provision. All points are relevant to our activities in general, not only our large events or those focussed on women. Some we can take forward with minimal effort and others we need to give more consideration to due to cost implications. And I looked, childcare provision at conferences is actually a thing! How amazing!

Thank you very much for taking the time to read and thanks in advance for completing our diversity questionnaire and for encouraging your non-newsletter reading colleagues and friends to do the same. :-)

I look forward to chatting with you at various events – please do come and say hello – and working with you as part of your support to making the ORS as inclusive as we can!

What you can do now


  1. Fill in the diversity questionnaire: bit.ly/ORSdiversity
  2. Get your friends to fill in the diversity questionnaire. And their friends!
  3. Do some unconscious bias training [available in the members section soon]
  4. Let me know if you have some time and would like to
    help out!
    Email [email protected]
  5. A HUGE help would be to fill in the diversity data in your profile area of the members section on the ORS website.