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blog • Story

Meet Dr Craig Poku

Megan Raybould

07 November 2023

Craig, a trustee at Pride in Stem, is passionate about intersectional inclusion. Craig shares his experience of being a Black queer trustee and how he wants to lead the way for others.

It’s Summer 2021. We’re in the middle of the pandemic, working from home has become the norm and with that the increase in online events. During this time, I began doing projects with a charity called Pride in STEM, whose core mission focuses on improving the inclusivity of LBGTQ+ people in STEM. Whilst doing these projects, I became really good friends with the chair, Dr Alfredo Carpineti and during our project wrap up, he suggested that I become a Trustee for the charity. Two thoughts came across my mind:

  1. I thought only super experienced older people become trustees
  2. What on earth is even a Trustee and why me?

Having now been a trustee for the last two years, I want to share my experiences to help answer these questions in case you’re asking yourself the same thing.

What is a Trustee?

A trustee is an individual who ensures that a charity or non-profit organisation runs in the best interests of its beneficiaries and target audience. There are lots of different ways boards engage with charities they serve - often this depends on the size of the charity, with smaller charities often having closer involvement.

At Pride in STEM, our trustee board works closely with our charity and supports the day to day delivery. As trustees, we support the strategic direction of the charity by planning and running events (e.g. conferences, workshops) that cover both academic and industry partners. We also do more long term projects that may have a more specific focus such as podcasts and festival talks.

Now how I’ve described the role makes it seem that these ideas are dictated by say our chair. That isn’t the case at all. Pride in STEM as an organisation has had organic growth throughout the years, where the direction of the organisation, projects and events are driven by the Trustees and we collaborate to make strategic decisions. As a result, I  have been able to work on projects I am passionate about, shaping what the organisation has done in terms of its mission and how it spends its money. These have led to me having projects focused on my experiences of being both Black and queer and the additional barriers I face within STEM.

Why did I say yes to becoming a Trustee?

I could start this paragraph by talking about all the transferable skills that I’ve gained from being a trustee. However, that wouldn’t exactly answer the question. Sure, I’ve developed skills such as problem solving, effective team management and project execution under pressure. For me, what caught my curiosity for wanting to join the Trustee board was being able to influence a part of society that directly impacted people like myself.

From personal experience, being Black within academia has not been an easy journey. From racist remarks from colleagues to being held back from opportunities that would advance my career, there are active barriers for Black people who engage in STEM due to societal norms and institutional racism. Adding the layer of me identifying as Queer, I did not feel safe going on certain fieldwork trips due to safety provisions not being made for me by the University. Unfortunately, my experience is not unique. LGBTQ+ people are more likely to face barriers when progressing through their careers and despite work being done to remove barriers for Black people in STEM, they still make up the smallest proportion of marginalised people within senior roles.

I’m a big believer in story telling being a tool to provide practical solutions to break barriers down. With that in mind, being a Trustee would allow me to use my stories to support and uplift the communities that matter to me the most.

As a Trustee, one of the proudest projects I oversaw was the Pride the STEM podcast. We had several stories from a range of scientists, talking about identity, barriers and career journeys. Not only did we get great engagement from the community, but we were able to help people develop solutions to make the lives of LGBTQ+ scientists better.

Why be a young Trustee?

Prior to joining Pride in STEM as a Trustee, I had the image that trustee boards were old, white and stale and that you needed to be that too in order to join a Trustee board. However, I’m hoping that by reading this article, you can begin to see that this isn’t the case. The reality is that with how quickly the world is changing, we need young voices in positions of power.

Joining Pride in STEM has equipped me with the tools to be able to advocate for causes that matter to me. It’s also allowed me to feel more confident to speak my mind and go onto other positions such as my non-exec role at the Natural Environmental Research Council.

If you want to become a Trustee, I would always recommend joining an organisation that matters to your core values. From there, you can ask about how you can get involved and ways to become a Trustee.

Dr Craig Poku (he/they) is a data scientist, activist and a Trustee of Pride in STEM. Pride in STEM's primary goal is to provide equality for all LGBTQIA+ people who engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

You can hear more from Craig on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok

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