Quietly advocating for Diversity.

Thanks to all who’ve filled out our survey, we’re leaving it open for awhile longer so you can still give us feedback.

We’re back after a brief hiatus! On August 24 at 2pm, we’ll talk about effective communication strategies for helping improve diversity and highlight whether or not visibility campaigns are sufficient to increase diversity or is there more that is required to achieve a robust state of diversity?

A few weeks ago, #ILookLikeAnEngineer became a trending topic on Twitter. It all started with some disparaging remarks made about software engineer Isis Anchalee, who was featured in a recruiting ad for the company she works for in the bay area.

The whole story is here. I quote from it below.

She introduces herself this way:

I doubt that most of you know me. I am a passionate self-taught engineer, extreme introvert, science-nerd, anime-lover, college dropout, hip hop dancer, yoga teacher/hoop-dance teacher, really authentic friend andHUMAN(omg?!). In fact, if you knew me you would probably know that being famous is one of my biggest nightmares; seriously right up there with falling into a porta potty. I keep to myself most of the time and generally prefer when others mind their own business too.

Up to the point where these ads were published, Anchalee was doing her part for diversity in tech just by being an engineer It sounds like she likes her current job well enough and does it well. And though I don’t know her, I imagine she’d have been happy enough to continue working in the tech industry in the Bay Area. Quietly being an engineer.

I didn’t want or ask for any of this attention, but if I can use this to put a spotlight on gender issues in tech I consider that to be at least one win.

After she was inspired to write it due to the reaction to the ad she’s featured in (she’s one of a few of her colleagues photographed, showing off some of the team (I always wondered who people in ads are…and now I know in at least this one case), her challenge to show the diversity present in engineering has really taken off, and underscored the point that scientists and engineers do not look just one way (or even dress one way; the white lab coat is not all that typical in many fields of science, for instance). And just how the current culture fosters unconscious bias:

There is a significant lack of empathy and insight towards recognizing that their “playful/harmless” behavior is responsible for making others inappropriately uncomfortable. This industry’s culture fosters an unconscious lack of sensitivity towards those who do not fit a certain mold.

And what Isis Anchalee is doing with #ILookLikeAnEngineer parallels another story of a quiet person that did a lot to raise awareness of outright bias: Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks was an introvert too. A quiet member of her community, serving as a quiet example, and one community members felt deeply connected to (there doesn’t seem to be any other way w/ us introverts). Until she kick-started the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. And suddenly, she was thrust into the spotlight.

Harassment and derogatory remarks/behaviors shouldn’t have to be tolerated by anyone. For whatever reason, Both Parks and Anchalee have stories that resonated beyond their immediate communities. And of course, both had others to help spread and broadcast a similar message, to demonstrate their agreement with them. In some ways, quietly standing in solidarity.

To take one example, women on the traditional academic path are making some progress, though in the upper ranks of academia (Associate & full professor), growth is minimal over the last decade. Visibility campaigns such as Anchalee’s aren’t new, but perhaps they haven’t taken hold or they are not fully sufficient to make real change happen.

A new publication in from the St. Louis Federal Reserve has found that educational attainment and financial stability of traditionally under-represented groups finding that though they can achieve middle class and beyond, it’s a tenuous state and those gains are easily lost, especially during economically challenging times, like recessions, that are hard for them to come back from (NYT story on this report).

And hard funding times may well be at play in the slowness of increasing diversity in STEM fields too. Biases are more entrenched perhaps, and change is slower to come, perhaps due to limited opportunities on the whole. This is one reason increased funding in STEM, if done wisely, could matter a lot.

Which brings us to the discussion questions for this week’s #DiversityJC

  1. Is there such a thing as Quiet advocacy for Diversity? Is just being in the industry and just passively observed, OK?
  2. Does showing STEM workers all look different help improve diversity? Or is it a neutral backdrop to other steps?
  3. What strategies work best for you when talking about diversity? Direct? Quiet?
  4. What situations/scenarios call for quieter activism vs. the louder-speak-up/protest activism?
  5. What are some things that can be done to ensure that education/STEM training lead to resilient & robust careers for underrepresented groups?

Join us this Monday, August 24 at 2pm ET for the discussion!

Ian Street

Emily S. Klein



#DiversityJC is on vacation this week and we’d like to hear from you!

Following the discussion on work-life balance last week, we’re taking this week off to relax (really, we’re working on other projects and traveling, so perhaps we’re not so good at work-life balance…we’re trying!).

Instead of a discussion, we’d like to hear from you, the #DiversityJC community! We have a brief survey for you to take that will help us improve the #DiversityJC.

The link to the survey is here:

Google Forms #DiversityJC survey

Thank you for your feedback! #DiversityJC thrives with diverse participants!

We look forward to hearing from you! And #DiversityJC will return to our usual discussion two weeks after this Monday.




#DiversityJC recap on using technology in the classroom

Hello everybody!

This week we discussed @Drew_Lab article about Using Technology to Expand the Classroom in Time, Space, and Diversity. That was such a great discussion and we are so thankful for Joshua Drew to write the #DIversityJC announcement and for sharing his expertise with us 🙂

Yes! We discuss a lot about diversity around here, but sometimes we don’t really get to the point of trying to achieve it! This publication discusses actual examples of how the teacher can expand diversity among students, generally easily accessible options that can make a difference! For example, to encourage multi racial and gender-heterogenous collaboration in classroom. We can think about who we assign to read, who we skype in, and who’s work we talk about. Personal interactions make such a difference for students!

Opening up remote access means we have more options – but a responsibility to think critically about them.And expose students to think critically as well. Also important to consider bandwidth when designing/selecting materials for online consumption, especially for video or live lectures/discussions…. Online materials can be very useful, but can also be inadequate or wrong. Important to filter.

By using technology means you can access a wider range of students and experts that normally wouldn’t be able to be in your classroom. It is helpful for students to see other kind of scientists out there!

We spent a good amount of time discussing specifically the use of Twitter in the classroom. Several people shared their experiences and the most difficult task mentioned was how to engage students that are not used to use Twitter regularly.

Other interested points:

Whatever the challenges, we can’t deny that technology and twitter can expand the voices and experiences for students. But the teacher must take time to consider the limitations and challenges of using technology/social media in the classroom. Like any other class, it might take you a little more time in the first times you teach them. But it’s worth and rewarding! Let’s do this! Thank you again @Drew_Lab for your contribution!

And thanks for all who joined our #DiversityJC and hope to see you next time.




Let’s talk about using technology to expand classroom diversity! #DiversityJC by @Drew_Lab

There is an old adage that says, “If the only tool you have is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail”.  We know that we have a diversity problem in academia but what are the tools that we have at our disposal to deal with it?  This is a broad question – one that probably underscores every single discussion we have on this blog.  For the next discussion I’d like to introduce a paper that I gave at the 2015 Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference as part of a special symposium on “Leading Students and Faculty to Quantitative Biology Through Active Learning” which was organized by Laura Miller and Lindsay Waldrop.

First a little background: Lindsay asked me to give a talk about how we can use digital technology to enhance learning in the class and as I sat down to write it, I realized that the really novel aspect I could explore with this talk was not so much the technology and learning aspect, but rather that by thinking about these topics through the lens of increasing diversity, specifically in STEM fields (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1.001

As a result the paper became a really fun piece to write. I feel like too often we don’t give ourselves permission to read outside of our fields, and with this paper I suddenly had permission to read into educational theory, sociology, media studies and many other fields.  The result, I hope, was a theoretical framework with which to view three worked examples from my lab over the past few years. The first was working with students in high schools in Fiji and Chicago to build an on-line class about marine conservation. The second was an impromptu use of Twitter to teach a class in New York City two days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged most of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Lastly was a project run by Columbia University and the University of the South Pacific to train conservation students and practitioners from Melanesia to use low cost technology to improve marine conservation.

These three examples span the range from high cost, high labor interventions to spur of the moment adaptations of technology, but they’re united by the desire to expand the classroom and to allow new voices to be engaged in learning.

While I freely admit that technology is not going to be the only tool we should have when thinking about improving diversity, I think by adding tools problems become more nuanced and suddenly there are more than just nails.  I want to ask those of us who stand in front of classes to think critically about some points, particularly as we are in the planning phases for next semester’s teaching:

1) Whose do we privilege by gatekeeping authoritative voices into the class?

2) Whose voices do we exclude by making the decisions above?

3) Can we use new tools to give both authentic and recognized self-expression in the classroom to underrepresented groups?

4) How can technology help erode internal and external stereotypes about expectations of what a STEM practitioner looks like?

I’m really looking forward to seeing what you have to say about this. This is one of those papers you write not to get citations but to spur on conversations among the community. I may not have gotten everything right, but I’m willing to  be wrong if it means we can have an honest conversation about how we can do things better.

Here’s the paper:

Drew, J.A. (2015) Using Technology to Expand the Classroom in Time, Space, and Diversity. Integr. Comp. Biol. (2015) doi: 10.1093/icb/icv044

And the link: http://icb.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/05/15/icb.icv044.abstract?keytype=ref&ijkey=Tlm4OMvzETx3eea

#DiversityJC Monday, July 13th, 2pm EST. Hope to see you there!