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Chris Lowrie

Senior Director of Laboratory Sciences and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead, Charles River Laboratories, Edinburgh

Zohar Tiran

Associate Director of Discovery Sciences, Co-Chair of Women and Allies ERG, Charles River Laboratories, Edinburgh

Ashleigh Jade Baillie

Senior Business Specialist, member of Women and Allies ERG, and Co-Chair, Neurodiversity and Disability ERG, Charles River Laboratories, Edinburgh

Employee resource groups play a crucial role in the life of an organisation by helping colleagues feel connected, supported, included — and, importantly, heard by management.

Seven years ago, Dr Zohar Tiran relocated from Israel and joined the global preclinical contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories at its UK Safety Assessment in Edinburgh. She knew she had made the right move. “I enjoyed the job and the team I was working with,” she says. 

Four years later, she discovered the company’s Women and Allies employee resource group (ERG) — an employee-led community designed to support female colleagues — and realised that she hadn’t been taking full advantage of the opportunities on offer. “Suddenly, I had this amazing way to connect with people across the company who I wouldn’t ordinarily meet,” she says. “It helped me build a network and made me feel part of a community. It gave me a real sense of belonging.”  

Supporting colleagues and triggering internal policy change 

These days, Tiran — Associate Director of Discovery Sciences at the company’s Edinburgh site — is Co-Chair of the Women and Allies ERG and is head of the site’s sustainability committee.  

“ERGs are inclusive spaces where everyone in the company has a voice and can openly express their thoughts and feelings,” she says. “For example, in the Women and Allies group, we discuss how the company can support female colleagues with training, coaching and different workshops, etc., to help them progress to senior levels.  

“We also discuss company policies and processes and trigger change by making the HR team aware of any potential issues that could affect women’s experience within the company.” Thanks to the Women and Allies group, the company now offers increased leave for family emergencies, has a menopause policy in place and is developing a fertility treatment policy. 

ERGs are inclusive spaces where everyone in
the company has a voice and can openly
express their thoughts and feelings.

Zohar Tiran

Removing barriers to career development 

Chris Lowrie — Senior Director of Laboratory Sciences at Charles River — is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead at the Edinburgh site. He’s also an ally of the Women and Allies ERG. “I became an ally because I wanted to learn from other people’s experiences,” he says.  

“I want to listen to what people have to say about the challenges they face. Take menopause; the only way I can learn about this is to attend a discussion group and hear about the issues menopause can present. I can then use that feedback to help make positive changes for people in the workplace and help their career development. If there’s an obstacle in someone’s way, my role is to try to remove it.” 

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Inclusivity and offering networking opportunities  

Charles River operates several global ERGs. These include a Proud group for the LGBTQ+ community, an African Ancestry group and a Neurodiversity and Disability group. Ashleigh Baillie, Senior Business Specialist at the company’s Edinburgh site, recently launched a local chapter of the Neurodiversity and Disability ERG and is now its co-chair.  

This is an important group for Baillie because she has dyslexia and, as a child, was told that she wouldn’t be able to finish high school, get into university or obtain a science degree. However, tapping into the right support, she proved her doubters wrong on all three counts. 

Why workplaces need employee resource groups 

“Apart from offering support to neurodiverse and disabled colleagues, we offer information about neurodiversity and disability,” she says. “That might be for an employee who has a neurodiverse or disabled child or it could be for a manager who needs to know how best to accommodate neurodiverse or disabled colleagues in their team. We all need to know about this subject if the workplace is to become more inclusive.” 

Baillie is also part of the Women and Allies ERG. “When starting a new job, networking and meeting new people is extremely important. That’s what the Women and Allies group has enabled me to do. The importance of ERGs cannot be overstated.” 

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