The Second Job: An Introduction on Why STEM Is Losing Its Disabled Scientists.

disabled2

Image description: White disabled person icon on blue background, with person leaning forward. Gold science beaker as wheelchair wheel.

For our June Diversity JC discussion, we focused on #DisabledandSTEM, looking at research from Dr. Kate Sang on the experience of disabled scientists in the UK, and Working Life piece on her experience in the US by Jesse Shanahan. We were also thrilled to have both Kate (@katesang) and Jesse (@Enceladosaurus) join us for the discussion.

First, we discussed some semantics, which are important:

 

It is also important to remember that “disabled” pertains to a very large and diverse group:

 

And yet it is clear STEM fields are losing disabled scientists:

 

Our conversation quickly noted why this is, and the range of challenges disabled scientists in STEM face (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and their impact:

 

Barriers included physical access to not only areas for research…

… but also for support:

 

There is also the real financial cost that comes with having a disability – and let’s consider that on a graduate student budget.

 

The barriers and challenges go far beyond physical access and financial cost, as well.

 

…and this does not even get into the way in which disabled people are treated by health care professionals when they seek support and care:

 

One of the most important and poignant points in our discussion was how these challenges and barriers, in ways unlike any other experience, can force disabled scientists to make heartbreaking decisions between their science – and their health and lives.

For many, if not most, of us, science is where our heart and soul is – it is what we love to do. The idea of being forced to abandon our science is a hard one to even fathom – but it is a reality for many of our disabled peers, especially if they are without resources and support, at the institution, state, and federal level.

The importance of that support was also touched on in a recent New York Times op-ed on by Alice Wong (@SFdirewolf) , where the loss of support forced a major change in her career path. How may bright, creative, and curious minds are we losing before they even get started in STEM?

To avoid losing talented disabled scientists, there are tangible steps institutions can take to be more supportive and welcoming for disabled scientists, ensuring they can flourish in their fields.

 

Certainly, some institutions already have policies in place to support disabled scientists, but it is important to note that simply having policies on the books is not enough.

In addition, what resources, protections, and support are available may not be visible:

They may also require scientists to disclose their disabilities, which inofitself is a major challenge…

The stigma around disability means many people do choose to hide their disability if and when they can. This can limit visibility and access to support – but given how we treat disability in STEM, it’s up to institutions and the able-bodied community to ensure spaces are safe and resources are accessible. It’s on us to make change.

To these ends, there are many things able-bodied scientists can do:

Part of this is taking the time for serious self-reflection

… and it’s critical to remember we have a lot to learn, and we will need training…

 

But – what also stood out from our discussion was how much making science more accessible can help scientists and science:

 

This was our first conversation that focused on disability, and we hope to focus on additional and more specific aspects of disability and STEM in the future. Please let us know topics and research of particular interest to you!

Also make sure to check out conversations happening under #DisabledandSTEM, and follow scientists tweeting there…

[These convos happen Fridays at 8pm EST, tagged under #EnceladosaurusQA!]

… and mare sure your twitter is accessible!

 

Thank you to everyone who joined and followed our #DisabledandSTEM discussion, and special thank you to Kate Sang and Jesse Shanahan! We look forward to more in the future!

Emily (@dremilysklein)
Dr. PMS (@doctor_PMS)
Ian Street (@IHStreet)

Advertisements

June Discussion: Disability and STEM.

Pwd_sci2

Image description: Atom icon with disable person icon at center. Icons are white on blue background.

A theme which all participants referred to was fatigue. For many academics, our work is tiring anyway. But in addition, disabled academics have to negotiate not only the effects of their “impairment,” but also institutional structures for securing the adjustments they need to be able to do their work. Many respondents said that being disabled was like having a second job.

~ Kate Sang in her Science interview

If you’re on this blog, you likely care about (or are curious about) diversity and inclusion in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. Here and on our twitter chats, we’ve talked about a range of topics related to diversity and inclusion within the STEM disciplines. There is one we haven’t touched on much, aside from our discussions on the mental toll of science careers:

Disability.

We don’t talk about it enough in STEM, even in discussions of diversity and inclusion, despite the clear implications for people’s lives. For our June Diversity Journal Club, we want to focus on disability and STEM, discussing Kate Sang (@katesang)’s survey of researchers in the UK (also check out her interview with Science on the survey), as well as a Science Working Life piece by Jesse Shanahan (@Enceladosaurus). Collectively, these two pieces provide both research into the experience of scientists with disabilities, as well as a first-hand account. We also encourage you to check out Jesse’s #DisabledandSTEM on twitter, and especially follow other scientists sharing there.

We are also very excited that both Dr. Sang and Jesse will be joining us for the discussion! In addition to questions on the research and their experiences, etc, we will also focus on a few key points:

  1. Do we consider disability to a large enough degree when we talk about diversity and inclusion in science?
  2. What is your experience as a scientist with a disability/how does your able-bodied privilege mean your experience is different from other scientists?
  3. What does your institution or organization do to ensure they are inclusive to disabled scientists, students, and staff? What could they do better?
  4. What can able-bodied individuals do?

We do know that the stigma around disability can mean people are uncomfortable being open about their status. If you would like to ask a question or to comment anonymously, please feel free to direct message any of us (Emily @DrEmilySKlein, Ian @IHStreet, Dr. PMS @Doctor_PMS) or the DiversityJC twitter and we will post it for you.

A final note that we are trying to ensure the Diversity Journal Club website is accessible. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to improve!

Hope you can join us at 2pm Eastern time on Friday, 23 June!

Emily, Ian, and the Good Dr.

Diversity and the March for Science, and an apology.

M4S
https://www.marchforscience.com/

A previous version of this post was titled “Decisive or divisive: Diversity and the March for Science.” For full transparency, the initial post is included below.

This post was deeply problematic for several reasons. Most importantly, this should not have been framed as a debate, or that the voices quoted here be seen as divisive. It is not a debate. Those voices are educational, not divisive. Diversity and inclusion must be centered within in the March for Science – and in science more broadly.

We will not hold a formal on Twitter this month, but instead are taking time to reflect on the criticism we received and use it as an opportunity to further our personal education on diversity and inclusion. We encourage others to do the same. If you have thoughts about the March and diversity, or related questions, please feel free to post them under the hashtag.

Again, I (Emily) take full responsibility for this and deeply apologize for my ignorance and the harm caused.

 

[Update:] Also for transparency, I (Emily) have officially left the March for Science, which I had planned on doing so today (Monday 17 April) as of mid-last week (before I was rightly called out on Twitter). I was only involved with the national committee so my experience is at that level *only*, and I only speak for myself, although the experience of others within the March and the way people both within and outside the March were treated and valued, especially women of color, greatly influenced my decision.

My specific reasons for leaving are all indicative of the fact that others have made clear repeatedly: The March for Science is an example of the deep issues within science itself. The only reason I stayed as long as I did was because of the other people within the Diversity and Inclusion team. It was incredible opportunity to have the change to work with and learn from them.

 

*** Original post **

 

The March for Science is planned for about a week and a half from now, for 22 April, 2017.

Full disclosure: I (Emily) have been involved with the national committee for The March for Science as part of the Diversity and Inclusion Team. I do not personally speak for the March, not here and not on my social media. So we’re clear.

The March has not been without controversy. Understatement. From arguing the March is awkward or the March is a trap to explaining why they’d rather not march at all, scientists and the greater community have been discussing the March since its inception.

One area of particular interest to the Diversity Journal Club has been about, well, diversity. As with the Women’s March before it, diversity and inclusion has become a critical aspect in the discussion of the March for Science and its motivation. The March has been called out for trying to be apolitical, for avoiding the history of science and oppression, and for not fully appreciating why diversity matters.

Scientists on social media has been particularly critical. Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos (@OtherSociology) and others have discussed the March at length under the hashtag #marginsci (you can also see her analysis of diversity on March social media here). There have been numerous threads on this as well, such as one by Divya M. Persaud that starts here [link removed].

The response to these criticisms, often, has a similar theme as well, that they miss the point, and can be divisive for a mission that requires solidarity.

For our April DiversityJC, let’s talk about the March for Science and these conversations. Are they meaningful or divisive? Are they critical critiques, or undermining the March itself?

To give people time to get to Marches, if they choose to, we will be holding DiversityJC on Thursday April 20th at 2pm ET.  Please join us!

Emily K. (@DrEmilySKlein)
Ian Street (@IHStreet)
Doctor PMS (@DoctorPMS)

2016 #DiversityJC – Emily’s Year End Review

social-justice

It’s the end of 2016 and it’s been a year of change in all sorts of ways (for hopefully good, but also almost certainly for the worse in many ways too, especially on the diversity/inclusion front as at least the US became demonstrably less friendly following our 2017 election). 

In these first 2017 posts, Ian, Emily, and the good Doctor give our thoughts about this past year of DiversityJC and some ideas for the future. Ian’s post is here.

Remember you can subscribe to the DiversityJC Newsletter to keep up with all our discussions and posts.

 

I avoided writing my DiversityJC year-end review for weeks. Sure, I was busy with work, and then with family and friends and the holidays. But… I also didn’t really know what to write. 

Revisiting anything in 2016 seems… completely overshadowed by the US election. The incoming president. His cabinet picks.


I was derailed by this election. Absolutely and completely. I didn’t do any work for days – weeks even. And I know that’s one of my own forms of privilege – the ability to press pause while I grieved and clicked on links and read posts and tried to make sense of what happened, what to do next. And wept.

While I’ve been back to work (clearly), I’ve still been struggling to come back to social media. Aside from the easy, escapist space of Instagram, my online presence since November has comes in strange fits and starts.  Engaging seemed at once inconsequential, given what has happened (and will happen), and all-encompassing – I have been absent for days to weeks from Twitter, but posted long-winded statements and questions on Facebook, laying aside research to obsessively follow and respond to the conversation that resulted.


Eventually, I found myself in this place where I was completely torn. On the one hand, I feel like I am not doing enough to prepare and to fight what is happening, what is going to happen – on the other, starkly aware of the risks to my own research should I take any more time away.

I was desperate for some time, some space to regain my balance. To see clearly my way forward. More days were lost as I spun my wheels.


Over the holidays, I was finally able to carve out a little of that time, that space. Not much, but some. I also relied on the voices of those more eloquent than myself:

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: “Re-framing Ocean Conservation in this Post-Election Era”
Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman: “Why I am Committed to Fighting Oppression in Academia”


I also finally sat down to review the topics our Diversity Journal Club has addressed in 2016 – which was strangely challenging. I am so focused on what’s next, on 2017 – and, as I mentioned, it’s been really tough for me to look back at … Before. It already feels like another era.

But what I realized as I read over our recaps and intros that ruminated on why women leave STEM, whether we can overlook someone’s behavior in light of their achievement, on toxic masculinity and Nobel prizes and how bias and the imposter syndrome are connectedall of these things remain critical. Their importance as examples of why inclusion and diversity matter, how they translate into the science I love so much, the science that loves to believe it is objective and above such social ills – these matter not less but more in the coming months.

We also started out 2016 talking about what “diversity” means. That conversation had me reading some posts that were challenging and eye-opening (for me anyway), and thinking about why diversity matters beyond being the right thing to do. We also discussed what it means to be an ally, and why Orlando is poignant not just for us as people, as citizens, but also as scientists.


These conversations are still a form of activism – a critical one. We must continue to highlight and share the science that shows us how much inclusion matters, and that the scientific community is not above or immune to the societal ills of prejudice and bias. We must continue to talk more broadly about what diversity and inclusion look like, how social justice cannot end at a lab or office or classroom door. We must continue to educate ourselves and each other. If this election proved one thing, it’s that we need to listen more, educate more, engage more.

This is a crucial way forward in this new political climate. Conversations like those we have under #DiversityJC are more important than ever.


In the end, as 2017 rapidly approaches like a freight train, my answer came clearly one night as I lay fretting and awake: I simply resolve to work harder. One thing that becomes more obvious the older I get is that there are indeed no do-overs. We have this time, now. That is it. We don’t other chances. It sounds cliche and trite – but it also seems more true now than it ever has to me before.


My research will get done, but I also turn more attention and more effort to my To Do list – not just in the weeks following November 4th, but from here until we go back in the election booth in 2018, and in 2020. And beyond – bias and discrimination do not end along party lines. I am focused on a job that values and allows for social justice work as an explicit part of the package. I want to do good science – but I want to make science better even more.

Discussions as part of the Diversity Journal Club hold a central place for me to forward my own education, as I push my career in new directions, and, I hope, the education of others. I hope more people share the research and topics we look to cover in the coming months, more join us. I hope to post more here, too – to put this space to good use.


Our work is just beginning.

Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)

Albert Einstein: he was an introvert. What about you?

Being a better ally: March discussion recap.

If we agree that diversity matters in science, then it’s also important we talk about how to get there. A critical part of that is learning how to be an ally for underrepresented groups – and this was the topic of our March DiversityJC.

What does being an ally really mean? I think a good ally:

  1. Recognizes their own privilege* and takes responsibility for it.
  2. Calls out behavior and issues, speaks up – but never over.
  3. Knows how to listen.
  4. Sees it as a personal responsibility to educate themselves on the issues around the underrepresented group they hope to work with.
  5. Is ok with being wrong, can apologize when that happens, and then move forward.
  6. Knows ‘ally’ is a verb.

In addition, Judy Booth (@BotanoCan) noted a simple way we can act as allies..

…and Ian Street (@IHStreet) reminded us that allies don’t take on that title themselves. It is not a self-proclaimed identity. We can aspire to be allies, we can want to operate in solidarity with, but we don’t get to call ourselves an ally. More on what it means to be an ally available here, here, here, here, and all the resources here.

Ian Street (@IHStreet)  also got to the more nuanced difficulty in identifying situations where we need to call out behavior or language. This can be challenging, as our privilege means those situations don’t affect us and therefore aren’t always visible to us. While it isn’t our ‘fault’ we are less aware, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on the issues and learn to see those situations – either by reading, connecting with others on social media, or talking about them with people in those groups. That is, actually, how having a black friend can make you less racist.

However, it can also be challenging to navigate this if speaking up is difficult for us all by itself, if we’re more introverted. It’s also tough if we’re more junior scientists. Calling out a culture or a senior scientist can have real ramifications. For that reason, we need allies at all institutional levels, who are educated and willing to speak up. In addition, we can think of other ways to act as allies:

Ian also had another idea:

But others disagreed.

Moreover, if we choose to leave a field because it’s not diverse, it’s just as likely another white het/cis person make will take our place – potentially one less educated and ready to enact change. Plus, I really feel the issue is in changing the societal structures within our fields, and the responsibility should be with institutions to 1) recruit deeper applicant pools, and 2) retain and support more diverse employees. If we simply vacate the field, this doesn’t ensure that happens, and it seems (to me) to absolve those institutions of those responsibilities.

What we can do is choose to take our skills and experience to those institutions committed to making change –

 

Finally, it is really vital we know being an ally isn’t going to be warm fuzzies all the time. To be an ally, you also need to understand that you’ll be uncomfortable at times, you will make mistakes and say the wrong thing. Also, people are going to be angry when you move into these spaces – and they often have a right to be. As we know, bias and discrimination can impact not only our personal lives, but also so much of our careers as well, from letters of recommendation to our representation in the field, even in student evaluations. Being aware of the discrimination you face every day, and that it has nothing to do with you skills and talent and everything to do with things you can’t change, is really really frustrating. People get angry.

Another of the most difficult things is that acting in solidarity with does not means there may be LGBTQ+ or POC or women-only spaces that are less welcoming to you, even when you’re an excellent ally. We must understand that, until we are actually in the post-racial, post-patriarchal, post-homophobia, post-etc society, those spaces need to exist, and not  take it personally when we are, for once, excluded.

As an example of how this shouldn’t happen, in the year before I arrived, some female grad students at Princeton decided to have a women in science sleepover, women only. The male grad students were very hurt they weren’t invited, and responded with anger. As a result, at almost every meeting on women in science I attended at Princeton, someone always asked “what about the men?

The reason these spaces are tough is because as white, cis-gendered, heterosexual people, we have been allowed in and felt safe in every space we want to access. When we are first excluded, it can feel hurtful or insulting. We need to learn it is neither, and that other groups feel that way regularly – it’s a white, male, cis/het world, people.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the ally discussion or followed along! Feel free to add thoughts in the comments!

 

Emily (@DrEmilySKlein)
Ian (@IHStreet)
Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)

 

* Important! Privilege means you won’t experience something (racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamaphobia, etc, and how they translate into our daily lives) usually because of something you have no control over – your skin, gender, sexual orientation – but also things you do but should be your choice – your religion or wealth. It does not mean you’ve had it easy, or haven’t experienced discrimination in another way.

 

 

B.o.B says the Earth is flat…

By now you may be aware that hip-hop artist/rapper (I honestly don’t know if those are one and the same thing) had a long series of tweets about how the Earth is flat, citing “flat Earther” sources.

Neil Tyson, as he often does, stepped in to tell B.o.B that he was wrong about this particular issue.

And let me back up Tyson on this point: B.o.B is wrong. The Earth is round. So are the other planets (perhaps easier to confirm with another planet. Have B.o.B track the Galilean moons as they disappear and re-appear periodically as they orbit Jupiter…indicative of spherical nature of the planet itself– and planets generally).

However, I’d like to ask why B.o.B might feel that way, what makes him so suspicious of science (at least this science)?

In his tweets and his “Flatline” track he released today, there is a strong bent of conspiratorial thinking as well as invoking the idea that scientific knowledge is just another authority hiding the truth of the world.

I don’t know B.o.B.’s biography or his thoughts, but can imagine he faced a lot of bias, rationally learned not to trust authority, and did not feel welcome in the world of academia, seeing it as just another part of a racist/flawed society. So even if he were in school, hearing about science may have made him tune out the knowledge because he saw it as a questionable source.

This post may be reading too much into B.o.B.’s flat Earth beliefs, but may be indicative of why STEM has a diversity problem. It may be seen by those that might have entered it as just another institution where they are not welcome (as well as the fact that there aren’t many URM astronomers out there, Dr. Tyson aside). Admittedly B.o.B. has taken it a step further to also stating that no real knowledge can come from such an institution. Though, perhaps he is demonstrating some curiosity about the world and has incomplete information.

It’s sad that STEM seems to have failed– this is partly why inclusiveness and diversity matter. And though I’m sure B.o.B. has plenty to write about in his songs, it also seems like he’s limiting himself too. Unable to see the deep and wide universe from his flat Earth. He also may be unaware of times when science really can and does challenge authority. He might be interested in those stories.

Ian Street (@IHStreet).

 

 

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)