New Resource: Equity and Diversity for Events

Diversity encompasses issues of equity, inclusion, accessibility and intersectionality (the interconnection between gender and racial inequality alongisde other social disadvantages). I’ve created a resource to ensure academic and science events support diversity. Below is a brief version.

Continue reading New Resource: Equity and Diversity for Events

Sexual Harassment in the Academy

Trigger warning: this post describes an investigation and experience of sexual harassment.

On 19 January 2018, I wrote to the Presidents and Executive leaders of the Australian Academy of Science asking them to address the University of California Berkeley investigation finding that Academy Fellow, Professor Terry Speed, had been found to have sexually harassed a woman postdoc over a two-year period. Prof Speed was also found to have created a ‘hostile environment,’ for the postdoc and a second complainant, Professor Lior Pachter, who made the findings of the investigation public.

This sexual harassment of the woman postdoc (‘Barbara’) included several months in Australia, when Prof Speed invited her to his Australian institution, WEHI, where he was still leading a lab at the time that the investigation was made public. Not only is his position as Fellow notable, but he is also a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Science 2013 and was awarded the Eureka Prize for Scientific Leadership 2014. Prof Speed is also one of the founding sponsors of Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE), which is being co-managed by the Academy of Science. SAGE is running the Athena SWAN Awards, a pilot of the UK initiative to increase gender equity and diversity in science and academia. Almost 90% of Australia’s universities are signed up to the Athena SWAN program, along with other government research organisations and medical institutes.

I was employed by the Academy as the project manager for SAGE, and was tasked with getting the program off the ground prior to its establishment and launch (April 2015). I left the Academy after July 2016. I am proud of what my team achieved, and I will always treasure The Work, but I faced many hardships trying to make internal changes on equity and diversity. This includes, but is not limited to, not being listened to on improving internal processes, lack of organisational support under stressful conditions (magnified for me as a woman of colour), and leadership resistance to the intersectionality dimensions of the program.

My email in January 2018 came one and a half years after I left. From the outside, it seemed that very little had changed on gender equity and diversity. I asked the Academy to address a number of basic steps, including a public statement about Prof Speed, and policies to address sexual harassment and discrimination.

As I write this, it has been six months since I contacted the Academy about Prof Speed, asking them to increase visibility of their gender equity and diversity policies and practices.

Below, I reproduce my email in full, without the names of the Executives to whom I addressed this, and omitting the name of another ex-employee. I then discuss what’s happened since and the responses on this case.

What follows is not just about this one case, but more about how this situation has been handled. Specifically, the culture of silence and inaction. What does it say about the state of academia and science that prominent men who buy a stake of equity programs are not held accountable by their professional associations when they harass women?

Continue reading Sexual Harassment in the Academy

Racial Preferences in Dating

Racial Preferences in Dating

I was interviewed about racial preferences in dating for the Triple J show, “The Hook Up,” along with Dr Denton Callender, a research fellow at the Kirby Institute, and Dr Ian Stephen. The podcast included calls from listeners who shared what it’s like to be fetishised on dating apps, as well as the racial biases that White people exercise.

Here’s part of the transcript.

Hannah: I asked sociologist, Zuleyka Zevallos, where these ethnic preferences might be coming from.

Zuleyka: It goes back to the way we think about beauty. We’re socialised from a really young age to be looking out for certain types of physical traits – and a lot of them are associated with Whiteness. It’s about: having very light skin; having a particular type of nose – various types of features that are more common amongst people who are White.

Hannah: So you think beauty is a cultural idea, not a physical one?

Zuleyka: It is very much shaped by culture. We know that because there are patterns. You talked about the patterns on dating apps. There are patterns in which people couple more generally, in marriage – those types of patterns. If it wasn’t culturally shaped, there wouldn’t be patterns because everyone would have an equal chance of hooking up with people, and having relationships with, people outside of their own racial group.

Hannah: I’ve heard the argument that having an ethnic preference is like having a preference for blondes or brunettes. Is that really the same thing?

Zuleyka: Not really, because there is a lot of variability within and across racial groups. So you can find a lot of different traits across ethnic groups. But since people will say, particularly on their online profiles, when they’re using dating apps, they will say things like: “No Asians.” Or, “No Black people,” things like that.

Hannah: We are going to be talking that in more detail in just a little while.

Zuleyka: Great! I think that things show that people learn to think about sexuality and what attracts them in particular ways that are very much exclusionary to people of colour.

Hannah: And so, do you think we’re socially conditioned to find certain ethnicities more attractive?

Zuleyka: Yes. It comes across in a lot of research particularly to your listeners who would be people of colour would be told things like, “Oh you’re pretty for a Black girl,” or things like that, which show that people are thought about being attractive or unattractive the closer they are to European ideals of beauty. It’s through various forms of culture, from paintings through to film – we’re surrounded by these ideas that a certain type of look is more attractive than others.

Hannah: This preference for whiteness in dating, do you think sometimes we find that hard to accept?

Zuleyka: I think so. I think it’s because in Australia, we don’t really have a language to think about race. We don’t really talk about race, unless we’re talking about racism. In other countries, like the United States, people have more open conversations. Whereas here, I think that we’re scared to talk about race and racism because people are afraid to be thought of as racist. It’s not like people will be consciously discriminating against groups, even when they say things like, “No Asians,” or whatever it is – [Hannah interrupts].

Hannah: – Wait, how is that not consciously discriminating?

Zuleyka: [Laughs] Well if you speak to people who make those statements, they will tell you that they think they’re not being racist because in Australia we think of racism as something that is really overt. Like screaming at somebody an insult, or not giving somebody a job. Overt forms of racism is what we recognise as racism, but the everyday functions of race – like whom we’re attracted to – we are afraid to think about what that might mean about our racial identities and how we relate to other people.

Read more on my blog: https://othersociologist.com/2018/02/10/racial-preferences-dating/

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read my article, and the scientific sources on my blog.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #equity #racism #antiracism #dating #research #academia #relationships

Racism in Research and Academia

Racism is not an interpersonal phenomenon. It is not simply about something one person said to another; it is more than a slur about skin colour. Racism operates through institutions and policies, that are reinforced in everyday words and actions. Racism is not comprehending that things you say and do – as well as the things you fail to say and do – contribute to the alienation of people of colour. Well-meaning White people contribute towards racism – through their silence. Whether intentional or not, racism has material consequences on the life chances of racial minorities. Below are some examples of racism at work in research contexts. I examine what it means to be an “ally,” and I discuss ways to proactively respond to racial discrimination in the workplace and online.

Continue reading Racism in Research and Academia

Racism in Research and Academia

Racism in Research and Academia

Racism is not an interpersonal phenomenon. It is not simply about something one person said to another; it is more than a slur about skin colour. Racism operates through institutions and policies, that are reinforced in everyday words and actions. Racism is not comprehending that things you say and do – as well as the things you fail to say and do – contribute to the alienation of people of colour. Well-meaning White people contribute towards racism – through their silence.

Whether intentional or not, racism has material consequences on the life chances of racial minorities.

In my latest blog post, I discuss some examples of racism at work in research contexts. I examine what it means to be an “ally.” Below, I focus on ways to proactively respond to racial discrimination in the workplace and online.

How to help

Here are some ways to actively address racism day-to-day. To start with, be honest with yourself: could you be contributing to racism, unconsciously or not? Try answering some of the following questions and suggestions to come to terms with your bias and to make a positive contribution to change.

How many people of colour have you actively supervised and mentored? Do you know what minority students go through daily? Racism impedes education in many ways.

Allyship is sacrificing White privilege, like giving up speaking spots, grants and other career opportunities so that people of colour can shine. Allyship is not a crown White people can give themselves. It requires centring people of colour, making concerted efforts for positive change, and not passively upholding the status quo. What career sacrifices have you made to end racism, which are meaningful to people of colour?

Get trained… and keep on training

Do you know your biases and their impact on racism in your organisation? When was the last time you had training on racism and intersectionality that involved a plan of follow-up concrete actions to lead change?

Review your policies using a critical race framework. Statements against bullying are not enough. To affect structural changes that will eliminate discrimination, your organisation needs quotas, clear goals and deadlines, and public accountability.

Start a journal club at your institution. Read academic and policy papers by people of colour. Discuss their research excellence and use their science in your everyday work.

Add more people of colour authors and journalists to your regular general reading and news feeds!

Raise representation

The next time you go to a meeting, check the representation in the room: it’s not okay to leave out Indigenous and other people of colour from meetings and committees.

Organising a conference? Just as it’s not ok to leave out “women” think about racial balance. White women can’t speak for “minorities” (don’t forget women of colour are women too and White women can’t speak to our experiences).

Walk around your offices and campus. Do you see only White faces on walls, on your marketing materials and on your other media? Speak to your Vice Chancellor or Director on the importance of intersectionality in representation.

Learn more on my blog: https://othersociologist.com/2018/01/13/racism-in-research-and-academia/

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read my article, and the scientific sources referenced.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #equity #diversity #inclusion #antiracism #intersectionality #research #academia

Indigenous Sociology for Social Impact

Indigenous Sociology for Social Impact

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a strong contribution to make in leading change in sociology, however, their knowledges are kept on the periphery of our discipline. Associate Professor Kathleen Butler is working to transform sociology by “Indigenising” sociology. She is an Aboriginal woman belonging to the Bundjalung and Worimi peoples of coastal New South Wales, and a sociologist who hosted the “Indigenous Sociology for Social Impact” workshop. The workshop explored ways to address colonial practices in sociology, as well as how to draw on Indigenous expertise to decolonise research, methods and theories in sociology.

Indigenising sociology

Using the Aboriginal method of a “talking circle” (or yarning circle), where any person can contribute to unstructured dialogue, Professor Butler began two-day discussions considering how Indigenous-led practices can enhance Australian sociology.

The first day of the workshop was centred on a thoughtful presentation by former social worker and researcher Karen Menzies on how intergenerational trauma of forced removal of Aboriginal children continues to impact the health and life outcomes of Indigenous people.

The second day of the workshop began with Associate Professor Butler reflecting on her evolving research on sociological teaching and resources. She has analysed the topics covered in higher education sociology courses around Australia, and finds that there is almost no focus on Indigenous scholarship, and that there is little attention to race in central sociology teaching. She argued this is one of the ways in which we see how sociology actively participates in an exclusively Western framing of social issues.

We discussed that sociology as a discipline actively perpetuates colonialism in the citing conventions, theories and methods we continue to pass on to students.

Investing in future change

Another question we discussed at length was: how do we account for the fact that the majority of people who are trained as sociologists are not Indigenous? We discussed how Aboriginal sociologists are on the fringes of our discipline, either underemployed or precariously employed as casual staff. We noted a major investment in the training, mentorship, sponsorship, promotion and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sociologists needs to be prioritised in sociology.

Decolonising sociology

We discussed what a decolonised sociological imagination would look like, with critiques of foundational Western sociological texts at the centre. Australian sociology has rebuilt itself before – using a White feminist framework in the 1970s and 1980s – we can do this again using Indigenous knowledges and intersectionality. Associate Professor Butler argued that the work of Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson (a Geonpul woman) is our starting point for decolonising sociology, especially in Australia.

We also discussed issues of ethics and intersectionality (the interconnections between gender and racial inequality and other forms of social marginalisation).

Read more on my post, including a video interview with Associate Professor Butler delving into the outcomes of the workshop and questions that remain for our discipline. https://othersociologist.com/2018/01/06/indigenous-sociology-for-social-impact/

#sociology #socialscience #indigenous #aboriginal #research #academia #inequality #race #racism #australia #university #socialjustice

Protecting Activist Academics Against Public Harassment

Two women of colour sit at a desk reading a laptop

There have been an increased number of public attacks on underrepresented academics for their education and activism on social media. The term “activist academic” describes the longstanding tradition across nations where intellectuals engage in conscious protest in support of social justice and dissent against the status quo. Activism by academics asserts that the university has a social function beyond the provision of education and scholarly critique. Activist academics see that their role serves a social purpose to provide independent social criticism through volunteering, program interventions, public engagement outside academia, protests, and beyond. In some circles, the profile of activist academics has declined, particularly amongst White academics from majority groups. This led to the misperception that recent international protests by scientists were novel. This is misguided, as minority academics are often inextricably activist in their pedagogy, not-for-profit service work, and activities.

Sociology is centrally concerned with activism, especially in applied contexts. Our social justice focus is misconceived as bias or as an attack to those not used to having history, culture and politics viewed through a critical lens. Sociology is centrally concerned with social transformation. We do not merely observe the world; we aim to challenge existing power structures and to reduce inequity. Having said that, women academics in general are penalised for their work, and the outcomes are even worse for minority sociologists as they seek senior roles. The stakes for minority activist academics is therefore higher, as I will show below.

One of our first aims must be to collectively reconfigure what ‘counts’ as academic work while simultaneously challenging whether ‘counting’ is necessarily the best way to ensure the efficient use of public resources in any part of the education sector
Activist academics: what ‘counts’ as academic work? – Dr Sandra Grey

Continue reading Protecting Activist Academics Against Public Harassment

End the Hero-Worship of Bigoted Scientists

Crowded lecture threatre with many people raising their hands to speak.

There is a troubling trend of famous scientists receiving increased attention to speak at academic events and on conservative media. In The Humanist, I recently wrote about the resurgence of political scientist Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve. The book has been universally critiqued as an example of modern-day scientific racism. Yet Murray is being embraced by right wing media personalities, as well as by research institutions. He was the focus of a student and faculty protest after being invited to give a talk.

Published in 1994, The Bell Curve was founded on a flawed premise that inferred a correlation between intelligence, socio-economic achievement, and genetics, without accounting for the effects of discrimination. The research was funded by the eugenics-promoting Pioneer Fund. Time has proven the book to be scientifically “reckless.” It enjoys a resurgence in 2017, the era of Trump, specifically because it is read as proof that White people are superior to racial minorities, especially Black and Latin people.

We can see a similar pattern in the renewed embrace of Dr James Watson. He is famous for being awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA along with Francis Crick, but they did so by stealing the work of a White woman scientist, Rosalind Franklin. Watson has also promoted scientific racism and sexism throughout his career, arguing that Black people are less intelligent and that women have no value in science careers. He also spread racist pseudoscience, saying there is a link between sunlight and increased libido. His reasoning: “That’s why you have Latin lovers.” He has further argued that thin people are more ambitious, and he subsequently validates that discrimination towards fat people is understandable. All of this, of course, is without any scientific evidence.

What message does his continued elevated status send to underrepresented and marginalised groups in academia?

Continue reading End the Hero-Worship of Bigoted Scientists

The Value of Research Careers Beyond Academia

The Value of Research Careers Beyond Academia

This is the second of a two-part interview with me on Mendeley. The following is an excerpt on the positives of working as a research consultant on equity and diversity workplace issues, and the benefits of research to other industries.

Positive aspects of working in research outside academia

The positives are that I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my impact on organisations. I generally work for small businesses and nonprofits: it makes a world of difference to them to explain research, which can be quite dense, and turn it into practical outcomes for them. I see my work adopted quickly, rather than have a publication go through the peer review process.

There’s also an intellectual reward in finding new ways of communicating research skills; I enjoy engaging with clients. One of the big surprises has been not just positive interactions with clients but also with their audiences: there’s a lot of pluses that come out of interacting with new groups who really need that scientific input presented in a digestible way.

Stigma and benefits of working outside academia

A lot of researchers feel that a non-academic role is a consolation prize, hence, there’s a lot of stigma around considering a non-academic role. There are sociologists who I look up to, who have known me since I was student, who still ask when I’ll come back to academia. The underlying assumption behind their query is that such a return is the only way in which I can be truly recognised.

Yet everyone knows how hard it is to get a tenure track role, but we maintain this illusion that this is the only way we can have a fulfilling job. I advise researchers to look beyond the stigma: once you step off the academic track, there’s a world of opportunities. I’ve done work with government, I’ve led a research team investigating environmental health and safety, I’ve worked with nonprofits. I come to my career with the knowledge that there is a lot of fluidity in what I can do. I may do a lot of consulting for a while, and then go back into working for a traditional research organisation.

Researchers should know: our skills are highly valued outside academia, we need to learn how to market them. We should find a way to show to clients and employers how those research skills can be useful. If you can master that, potential employers and clients will give you amazing opportunities. For example, I once went to a job interview for a role as a researcher, and based solely on the questions I asked, the employers in question offered me a management role on the spot.

A non-academic career role is nothing to be ashamed of; it is a source of pride that strengthens research impact on society, as it brings knowledge to new sectors. There are many, many organisations which are in dire need of scientific skills and expertise; in the process, you can achieve great progress for a variety of communities.

Read more of this interview on Mendeley Careers: https://www.mendeley.com/careers/article/interview-sociologist-at-work

Learn more

Part 1 of this interview is about my work as a consultant on equity and diversity, and how organisations can embrace more inclusive practices: https://www.mendeley.com/careers/article/interview-sociology-at-work/

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read the article.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #equity #woc #socialpolicy #medeley #science #womeninscience #womeninstem #diversity #academia #inclusion #sciencecareers #sociologycareers

Interview: Sociology at Work

Interview: Sociology at Work

I was interviewed by Mendeley about my work in equity and diversity in research environments. Below is an excerpt.

My focus is on gender equity and diversity. I have worked with many different organisations as a consultant and project manager; I’ve instructed them on how to review, enhance, and evaluate effectiveness of different policies. I’ve also provided consultancy on how to provide training at different levels so organisations can better understand their obligations and responsibilities.

My work includes enhancing workplace culture, particularly, the everyday cultural dynamics that impact on working life. For example, by offering more flexibility for workers, and looking at where there may be gaps or opportunities to enhance existing procedures. I also study how everyday interactions can enhance productivity. In other words, I don’t just look at how organisations can meet their legislative requirements, which are merely the minimum standard. I also work with teams to see how they interact and how organisations can create policies to suit their unique workplace needs.

In the course of my career, I have worked with a number of research organisations, mainly here in Australia, such as the Academy of Science. I helped them implement their gender and diversity programme. I have also worked with several other national and state research programmes, looking at how they can meet the challenges of intersectionality issues; that is, how they can better understand how gender equity and racism intersect along with other diversity needs, including those associated with class, sexuality, and disability.

I’m sad to say that the research community is far behind other sectors: bullying is much higher in academic and research contexts. Although there ought to be a better understanding of diversity, minorities report they are targeted via a variety of forms, including microaggressions – everyday comments and “jokes” that exclude or demean differences. Furthermore, compared to industry and government, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) people in the research sector are more likely to remain “in the closet.” Studies indicate people working in universities feel less safe in disclosing their sexual identity to their managers, and they feel more susceptible to harassment and homophobia. This is particularly prevalent in Australia and English speaking countries including the UK and USA.

Read more on Mendeley: https://www.mendeley.com/careers/article/interview-sociology-at-work/

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read the article.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #socialjustice #equity #woc #socialpolicy #medeley #science #womeninscience #womeninstem #diversity #academia #inclusion