#BlackHistoryMonth & the importance of mentors. #DiversityJC recap

BHM_recap

February was #BlackHistoryMonth, and we decided to celebrate it in our monthly #DiversityJC, along the discussion about the importance of mentors and role models. You can read the complete Storify of our discussion here.

For our discussion, we addressed an article that indicated black science students are more likely to stay in science if they have at least one black professor (a discussion about the results of this study was also published by Inside Higher Ed).

Given that article and that February is Black History Month, we asked:

The point was connecting the research article about how black students stay in school with the point that we all need role models that look like us. This may not be recognized by those of us who see people like us in positions of power and in the people we look up to and go to for assistance.

And, as the research from Dr. Price demonstrates, it’s not just mentors and role models. It’s the people we see working in science every day that also matter.


This impacts all of us
, not just minority scientists. We are all trained that the people we look to for mentors and role models should be white, male, cis-gendered, straight, and able bodied. Whether we realize it or not, not only does leaving scientists out that don’t fit that bill marginalize them and their work, it also tells the the rest of us what a scientist should look like.
So – what can we do about this?

We can do better at both highlighting minority scientists of the past, and amplifying those currently working. We can assess our own internal biases and address our own internal ideas about what a scientist looks like. We can let go of the notion that groundbreaking science was done by a lone white man, and acknowledge instead is usually done by teams of scientists working together. We can encourage our institutions to hire diverse faculty and staff, and demand conference planners to ensure diverse speakers and panelists. Essentially, the importance of role models and seeing ourselves in the jobs we aspire to is another critical reason diversity and inclusion matter.

From Dr. Price’s work, critical piece of this is addressing those communities most marginalized. While Dr. Price found black students stay in STEM with at least one black professor, the same was not found for female students, suggesting they already felt more “normal” in the scientific community. While this does not negate the importance of more women in STEM and leadership positions, it does speak to the fact that communities of color may be more marginalized.
Another point made by the discussion looked the other direction at our topic:

That is, systemic bias and resulting conscious or unconscious stereotypes alone may overtly discourage underrepresented minority scientists from attaining leadership or mentoring positions. This stress can potentially cut both ways…

These points come back again to the importance of inclusion, and ensuring our institutions not only want to become more diverse, but also be more welcoming. In so doing, that they actively work to address internal the internal culture.

 

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Diversity Journal Club this month! Please check out the entire conversation on Dr. PMS’s Storify, and the Role Models we shared over the month. In addition, some important links shared during the discussion to check out:

George Washington Carver, Planter of Productive Farmers

Percy Julian, Natural Products Chemist

Til next month!

Doctor PMS
Emily Klein
Ian Street

Don’t forget to give our twitter account a follow at Diversity_JC!

Black History Month & the importance of mentors.

bhm

 

*PLEASE NOTE A CHANGE IN DATE**: We will hold the Journal Club discussion on Friday, 24 February to accommodate the AAAS conference. Although we recommend amplifying the voices of your colleagues of color at the conference! Tweet their talks at us under #DiversityJC!

You can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter, @Diversity_JC

 

For our February Diversity Journal Club, we wanted to pick a topic that allowed us to celebrate Black History Month – so in our case, black scientists in STEM fields.

You know, a regular complaint about Black History Month is the question, “well, where’s white history month?”

 

The answer, of course, is white history month is every other month of the year.

 

This is made clear when we think about the history of science we teach ourselves, and the role models we use to demonstrate who contributes most to the advancement of science. Overwhelmingly, we focus on white scientists of European descent. Every month is white history month.

 

Downplaying and downright ignoring black scientists has repercussions. It is hard to overstate the importance of role models and mentors. In being able to see people like you doing the job you aspire to. That people like you belong there and you will be valued in that career. This is one way we can increase inclusion in science – by having diverse role models.

For this Black History Month Diversity Journal Club, we’ll be looking at research that demonstrates black science students are more likely to stay in science if they have at least one black professor (the work is also discussed by Inside Higher Ed). We also encourage you to read about the importance of mentors for minority students (some examples here and here).

Please join us to discuss this research and the importance of mentors who look like you, as well as celebrating and sharing the stories of black scientists that serve as role models for all of us.

 

See you Friday, 24 February at 2pm Eastern time!

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