Why do academic institutions continue to replicate inequity? The Royal Society Te Apārangi in New Zealand has named their keynote speakers for their 150th Anniversary. All of them are White men. This seems additionally shocking because the organisation has recently rebranded and changed their name and misison to be focused explictly on diversity. This is a great thing! But clearly there’s a disconnect between their mandate and their event planning. Their response has been that the speakers were independently chosen by 10 autonomous branches who each nominated a candidate. They say acknowledge they have some work to do but don’t really give much detail to what this might entail. Perhaps it really is as they say- an unfortunate coincide that all ten panels chose White men? No, actually. What’s happened is not new.
Without equity and diversity guidelines, the seemingly independent and merit-based processes of science acadmies replicate inequity. The Australian Academy of Science used the same “independent” process which led to no women Fellows being inducted into the Academy in 2013. Science is done by people; in Academies, they’re some of the brightest in their fields, but all people have biases. As such, organisations need checks and balances.
Academies and other science and research orgisations need equity and diversity guidelines as well as training. They must collect, analyse and publish data on their progress. They should commit to evaluating their existing processes to make informed changes.
Lack of diversity in one activity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. A problem in one area often reveals other issues that need change. Many esteemed colleagues are talking about the lack of “women” speakers. A widely-shared open letter makes some excellent points but has a similar focus on women. Gender is not the only problem with that line up. Making academia and applied research more diverse and inclusive of underrepresented minorities should be everyone’s business.
This post was first published on Google+.