2015 in Review, Emily’s edition: Advice from #DiversityJC

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I’ve spend some time thinking about what to write for my Year in Review – rereading posts and recaps for inspiration. In 2015, the Diversity Journal Club explored the intersection of diversity and vaccine refusal, technology in the classrooms, peer review, workaholism, and student evaluations. We talked about the mental toll of science, and under-acknowledged reasons minority students may still avoid some disciplines. We discussed #TimHunt, #DecolonizeSTEM, #AddMaleAuthorGate, and #distractinglysexy.


In sum, we covered a lot of ground in 2015.


Reflecting on all of this, I’m reminded how much I’ve enjoyed our conversations, how fired up I’ve gotten about some of the things I’ve read – and how much I’ve learned, from the reading and from the community of people who engaged with us on this range of topics. These conversations weren’t abstract – they were personal. We aimed for tangible ways forward. This, for me, was and is one of the most important things this community can do. For my 2015 Diversity Journal Club Review, I return to the advice that’s been shared:

  1. Be prepared: Know that discussions of diversity, social justice, mental health, etc, can be uncomfortable and can devolve into confrontation. Don’t let that stop you – but do find and think and discuss ways to address tough situations ahead of time. Also learn how to be a good ally. Learn to listen, learn it’s ok to be wrong and to be comfortable with someone else’s anger, and learn to be open to being educated – but also know where the lines are and what behavior or ideas aren’t ok.
  2. Develop safe spaces and community: On topics from mental health to raising kids to addressing bias, a running theme for me was the importance of safe spaces and of community. We need safe spaces to talk about these issues, as they will likely always be uncomfortable at best. We also need a community to support us –of people like us, of informed and committed allies. We can develop these by speaking out on issues from diversity to work-life balance. Even if you are unsure how to move forward on them or feel uninformed, you can still ask questions of your institution: What is being done about diversity? How do we address work-life balance? What are we doing to prevent racism, sexism, sexual assault? Are there resources to bring in professionals to train staff – if not, why not?
  3. Maintain those safe spaces and community: Once established, these do need consistent engagement to thrive. Attend meetings or workshops on diversity or work-life balance, speak up and out about the importance of these issues. Address sexists, racist, homophobic, or other biased language and jokes. Come out of the closet. This is especially critical if you are tenured and established, and/or in a position of leadership. Often, those of us earlier in our careers feel less safe speaking out – we need examples from those higher up. There’s more on addressing comments at the end of this recap.
  4. Be self-aware and introspective: For me, this is something I do for myself consistently. I know I still have much to learn, and I will never understand the experience of others – but I can be a good ally. I can listen, I can learn from others, I can reflect on what is said to me, and on my internal reactions to situations and interactions.
  5. Walk the walk: If you care about diversity, social justice, mental health, work-life balance – really any of the topics we’ve touched on – don’t just talk about them. Again and again, the fact is those most affected by these issues often take on more of the responsibility for them – even though it is often undervalued or even de-valued. It adds to workloads that are already very demanding. Take on some of that – even if it feels scary or you feel unprepared. You can do this work, too. You need to do this work, too.
  6. Get help and find support: If you feel unprepared to address any of these issues, talk to someone: your friends, your family, faculty members and on-campus groups, centers and activist groups. Read the excellent literature and research out there, including blogs and online resources. And finally, be ok with being wrong; it’s better to say something and be educated. More on this in our recap here.
  7. Learn to listen & amplify underrepresented voices: Be a good ally by learning to let others share their experience, their views, and what should be done. Listen when they say there’s a problem, don’t assume that because you haven’t experienced it it doesn’t exist. When you’ve listened, don’t then take those words as your own. Amplify that voice, that message.
  8. Be a good mentor and role model – and encourage and spotlight other mentors and role models: One of the major issues around diversity that I have heard over and over is the lack of not only good mentors, but good role models. As a white person, the importance of seeing other people who look like you, doing something you could be doing, had to be explained to me. I had people that looked like me in most careers that sounded cool my entire life. More on mentors and role models here.

 

In addition to this advice, as I look forward to another year, I find myself thinking… what new topics can there be? Will we remain fresh and relevant? From race to gender to work-life balance and back again… haven’t we talked about everything?


The answer, of course, is yes. Unfortunately, there will be another Tim Hunt or Geoff Marcy , and I won’t be surprised to hear from the #GasLightingDuo again. We didn’t even get to Antonin Scalia. And there will be new ways the community will find to demonstrate how important diversity, in all its forms, is for not only critical for scientists, but for science.


Here’s to those new discussions, those new explorations of diversity and what it means to be a balanced scientist in STEM. And, as always, here’s to you, #DiversityJC contributors. I so look forward to the next things I will learn from all of you.


Here’s to 2016.

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