Recap: What is Diversity?

On Friday, The DiversityJC had our January discussion on Twitter (see #DiversityJC on Twitter for the entire discussion) and it was a topic worth reflecting on, for everyone, I think.

Just what is Diversity? And how can the implementation of policies help inclusiveness? How is diversity measured?

On one level, backed up by population genetics, there is only the human race.

From population genetics studies it’s clear that there is only one “race” of Homo sapiens: The human race. And if we could all treat each other as members of one group, rather than othering, diversity.inclusivity might be an easier problem to solve.

The discussion started off with a point that there don’t tend to be many conservatives in STEM and how stereotype threat can affect Christians into underperforming on tests of reason due to views that exist in the US that Christianity and science don’t mix well.

However, it’s not that there aren’t religious people that are scientists. They’re common. It’s only a very few versions of Christianity  (that are loud and are given voice by present political leaders) that fly in the face of strong consensus views of science. Evolution happens. And if you can be OK with that and maintain your faith, you are more than welcome in STEM.

Less religious, but no less pernicious is the Republican party of the US’s denial of climate change (I don’t blame voters for this entirely; it seems to have become an identifying feature of the current leaders of the party). Again, science can back up that climate change happens. There are even a few conservative climate scientists that accept this consensus. And they’re not excluded from STEM beause of their conservative viewpoints.

The Point is religious background or political views are not really high barriers to making it in STEM.

More to the point, diversity is not just any difference:

Diversity of views should exist, but if STEM has already covered an area thoroughly and come to an agreement and you’re coming in saying “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”, that will ensure a chilly reception amongst colleagues in science.

Stereotype threat is real and one problem to overcome with achieving inclusiveness in STEM. And one way to combat it is by building a pool of talent, enabling people to see someone like them doing something they might be interested in. It’s getting to a point where just seeing a person of any background or social identity doing something becomes routine, boring, and simply not extraordinary to an onlooker. It’s a human doing a job, working on a team, living their full life. The one human race working toward its goals.

Biochem Belle shared a few links during the discussion that are worth reading:

And of course, the issue of intersectionality came up. We’re all complex in one way or another. Though a person is not diverse, only a group of people can be.

We also discussed why diversity matters and leapt instantly to the idea “because it increases success of an organization. Which makes diversity seem like a means to a specific end.


Which makes diversity seem like a means to a specific end, which is problematic.

I think we ended up with a view that increasing diversity needs to focus on building a pool of talent (e.g. the BBC policy of having at least one woman/panel show) through actively casting a broad net– seeking out those who might apply for a position from marginalized/URM groups and getting them seen more and more often, letting them do their work.

The goal of inclusion and diversity should be to be amazed by the work someone does and not the person doing it. And of course, making clear to anyone feeling marginalized that 1. It can get better and 2. they too can pursue things they naturally gravitate towards doing, without threat of bias. Just being a part of humanity, being treated how they want to be treated, feeling included.

Ian Street (@IHStreet)

Emily S. Klein (@DrEmilySKlein)

Doctor_PMS (@Doctor_PMS)


6 thoughts on “Recap: What is Diversity?

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