Moving Toward Inclusion

From the article by Namandje Bumpus on Science Careers from the journal Science:

In the ongoing discussions about the lack of diversity in science, it can be easy to focus solely on demographics. And although improving the numbers is a necessary start, it is not enough to truly solve the problem. Many graduate programs, for example, are making concerted efforts to recruit students from historically marginalized groups, including African-Americans, Latinos, and students with disabilities, but this approach will only succeed if faculty members, administrators, and the scientific community at large also consider the environment that the students are being recruited into, and how to make those spaces truly inclusive arenas where a diverse group of scholars can thrive.

In other words, diversity and inclusion, while commonly conflated, are not the same. Inclusion speaks to whether individuals have equal access to opportunities and empowerment. Within the context of graduate education, for instance, it means going beyond focusing exclusively on the number of students belonging to particular populations and moving toward creating a culture in which students from historically marginalized backgrounds feel that they are truly part of the fabric of the institution. This transition is critical if we in the scientific community want more students from historically marginalized groups to pursue careers as scientists after they complete their training. To put it plainly, if students don’t feel included in the academic and scientific communities, they are more likely to leave science, and the diversity problem will remain unsolved.

…We in the scientific community must make active efforts to ensure that graduate students of all backgrounds have similar opportunities to visualize themselves as scientists by making sure they have access to people they can relate to. For instance, in addition to crucially important long-term efforts at the institutional level, such as improving hiring processes and developing programming around understanding biases, academic departments can also make an immediate and powerful impact with their regular seminar series. These talks are a great opportunity to showcase scientists of varied backgrounds and experiences—but if not planned with enough care, they can have the opposite effect by creating a monolithic vision of who can be a scientist.

Read the full article.