Leadership Module: EDI Blogs Prakash Chukka

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Introduction

When I was asked to write a blog post on equity, diversity, and inclusion, I thought it would be just like any other assignment. As I started doing research, I realized equity, diversity, and inclusion is more than a subject, and what I understood from class is just the tip of an ocean.

In this blog, I am going to share my perspective of equity, diversity, and inclusion with few personal examples.

Inclusion

Starting with inclusion, let’s take my nephew as an example, a middle school student. He lives with his parents in a city called Montreal, Quebec. And he is right now insisting his parents on buying him an iPhone because kids at school don’t have lunch with him and discriminate him just because he has an android phone (Kids these days huh!! Come on, it’s hard to deny that iPhone is seen as a status symbol and it’s proven by research)

In an ideal world, inclusion is “where an entire population is treated equally by keeping aside the differences like race, geography, gender, generation or in my nephews’ case a digital device and making them feel welcomed, valued and appreciated.”

 Diversity

Diversity has many definitions, and all of them say the same thing “people with differences in terms of religion, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, and race should be appreciated. These differences should be embraced and respected irrespective of their background. “

                                              Image source: (my 6th-grade painting)

Remember those kids who wouldn’t include my nephew? I don’t blame them because the Government of Quebec itself is weird implementing laws like Bill 21, which was introduced by François Legault. According to the bill, if you’re working in a public sector, you aren’t allowed to wear religious symbols like the hijab, turban, etc. They wanted to bring equality, but by eliminating diversity. I understand they want to treat everyone equal but not at the cost of diversity. Maybe Other provinces can help educate François.

In another example, a University wants to hire an employee for a position, and the advertisement mentions candidates to be clean-shaven. What if a persons’ ethnic background doesn’t allow him to shave? The institution might not be discriminating an individual but will seem like they are anti to diversity.

Equity

When it comes to equity, it is often confused with equality.

Equality is when you distribute resources equally to everyone, but when the same resources are given more to individuals who need the most is defined as equity. Equity is not possible without identifying and acknowledging the differences between various groups in a community.

I can give an example from my life when I experienced equity. I’m a Biochemistry student who is learning computational chemistry. So, our computational lab, including me has three new grad students, and the only difference between them and me is that they have done most of their research in computational studies. It wouldn’t have been fair if I was treated the same way as my peers. So, if I were to generate an output file from a certain computational analysis, the other two would be given 2 hours to complete the task. In contrast, I would be given 4 hours and a little bit of help for the same job, which is nothing but equity because of our differences in knowledge of the field.

Some institutions often assume diversity and inclusion as synonyms, but, both are entirely different. And the difference is perfectly explained by Verna Myers, a DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) educator who once mentioned, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”. (This touched my soul)

Which one is most important? Inclusion or diversity or equity?

In my opinion, all of them are interdependent, and they are insignificant without one another.

                                                             Image source here  

DEI at my current workplace

I feel fortunate that I am not facing such problems as my nephew or the people of Quebec did. Because the University I study emphasizes on the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and that was evident for me during the inauguration of science commons building. The amount of respect and gratitude showed towards natives on the day of Big Bang was mind-boggling.

Final Thoughts

The idea of equity, diversity, and inclusion first starts at home, and parents should teach it at an early age before any school because the environment in which the child is brought up and the cognizance developed during childhood will impact their lives and others.

Leadership Module: EDI Blogs Gayatri Namala

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

By M Gayatri Devi Namala

Keywords:  Equity, Diversity, Discrimination, Inclusion, Unconscious bios

  1. What is Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion how these are affecting the structure of our society and how they play a significant role in the development and infrastructure of a country

Equity, diversity, and inclusion are complex interlinked and interchangeable words with various definitions in EDI, depending on the group or community (Fig1). As we all know, every person is unique with their respective age, gender, colour, and different people experience education differently depending on life experiences, age, culture, and depending on resources available to them. The concept of equity is to provide a safe learning environment along with an excellent curriculum and pedagogy (Fig2) (1). To achieve equity in the STEM field, educators must provide awareness strategies, tools needed for students, which will create an equitable environment for all people without discrimination (2).

As we all know that Diversity always has two factors

1) Composition of group

2) Demographic differences.

The more diversified workgroup gives mixed attributes within a group in so many ways. From the past, so many decades, every country in the world is working towards Equity, Diversity, and inclusions. This means they are providing equal opportunities to everyone and treating everyone equally because it’s essential to create a community where all people feel valued, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age. (3).

Fig 1: Equity, Diversity, and inclusion have the power to shape the community for better wellbeing. (This Picture was adapted from -link- https://shawneemissionpost.com/event/diversity-equity-inclusion-building-a-stronger-community)

Fig 2: The three terms Equity, Diversity, and inclusion are interlinked and complex, with different definitions. (Pic adopted from following link –https://medium.com/@krysburnette/its-2019-and-we-are-still-talking-about-equity-diversity-and-inclusion-dd00c9a66113)

  1. Why it matters??? Why must we treat people equally?? Is it necessary???

Unfortunately, systemic and persistent forms of discrimination have created a substantial unconscious bias, which in turn affects the productivity of an organization or workgroup. Every country recognized the importance of diversity and inclusion and took necessary steps towards it. In 1985 Canada passed an act called the Canadian multiculturism act, which provides every induvial equal protection and benefits without discrimination (11). In 1964 the US government passed a bill the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide equal opportunities to all the races and genders. Just one year earlier, the US government also approved The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which gives fair labour standards and gives equal pay to women (4). On another side of the globe in India, the Indian Constitution also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex. India has laws to protect women from sexual harassment and providing maternity benefits, equal pay as men. However, Indian women in education are 64% according to 2018, but women in the employment sector are only 27% and while men are 79%.

  1. 3. Why is Diverse workgroup critical? 

In one level, diverse workgroup helps to attract different communities which allow the growth of economic status. A survey in the United States says that racial diversity and Gender diversity are associated with increased sales. Moreover, the Diverse workgroups offer more creativity, innovation, and organizational adaptability; They also come with a tremendous problem-solving nature.  However, the employees should feel that he /She belong to group means they should include in that group. The employee should be treated fairly with respect and make them feel that their uniqueness is appreciated, and they belong to the group. Being valued and feeling a sense of belongingness is the main element of inclusion. Inclusion also focusing on the social experiences and feelings of accepted and treated as an insider in the workplace as we all know, people always want to feel belonging while maintaining their diversity (race, religion, etc.). In the workplace, people can feel exclusion or inclusion, depending on the degree of belongingness they experienced (fig 3) (9). People’s elimination always carries adverse psychological and behavioural outcomes from individuals within a group or in an organization in the long run. On the other hand, Inclusive environments are proven to influence people willing to go beyond their job-related roles, which further help them in performing way better in a group activity and also give job satisfaction, intention to stay. In one statement, Inclusiveness helps to improve job performance, creativity and enhanced career opportunities for everyone in that group. (8,9,10)

Fig 3: Conceptualization of exclusion-inclusion based on uniqueness and belongingness. This Picture was adopted from “Diversity and Inclusion at the Workplace: A Review of Research and Perspectives” by Nisha Nair and Neharika Vohra.

A multicultural, inclusive organization or group is one with the diversified knowledge and perspectives that shape the group or organization as the best workforce. The leadership of organizations plays an essential role in creating and supporting inclusion within the group. However, every person should have specific values and skills necessary for creating inclusion in the workplace. (Fig4) (9). In one-way inclusive leadership can be viewed as antecedents of inclusion.

Fig 4: Values/Knowledge/skills necessary for creating inclusion. (this information is adopted from -Link-Skills for diversity and inclusion in organizations: A review and preliminary investigation,” The Psychologist-Manager Journal, vol. 15.)

4. References

  1. https://medium.com/@krysburnette/its-2019-and-we-are-still-talking-about-equity-diversity-and-inclusion-dd00c9a66113
  2. https://www.cae.com/careers/diversity-inclusion/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Pay_Act_of_1963
  4. https://cdn-media.leanin.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/19212949/Tug-of-War.pdf
  5. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/pass-long-pending-women-reservation-bill-demand-women-organisations/articleshow/64980701.cms
  6. https://women-s.net/womens-education-in-india/
  7. https://www.smefutures.com/women-stem-fields-indian-perspective/
  8. https://stemequityinitiative.org/educational-equity
  9. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e46b/01026f8859fa16a918cfb69590f2e955a052.pdf

Diversity and Inclusion at the Workplace: A Review of Research and Perspectives Nisha Nair Neharika Vohra W.P. No. 2015-03-34 March 2015.

  1. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7273821/No-girls-born-three-months-132-Indian-villages-amid-fears-sex-selection.html
  2. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-18.7/fulltext.html

Leadership Module: EDI Blogs Kristi Turton

Ensuring Equity in Laboratory Spaces- Are we doing enough?

By Kristi Turton

Recently, I have been reflecting more on the idea of equity in science. With the recent opening of the Science Commons building at the University of Lethbridge and the discussions in the Scientific Leadership class associated with CREATE, I have come to realize how inclusion in Laboratory spaces and in STEM academia are grossly limited. In the last couple decades, there have been initiatives to ensure that different races and ethnicities are well represented, there are equal gender representation and that pay gaps are decreased between these demographics. For that, I am extremely grateful being a woman in STEM but what other minorities are were still preventing from working in the STEM space, especially in “wet lab” settings?

The answer is the STEM community have not been ensuring inclusivity of people with disabilities. Although one could argue that the University of Lethbridge overall is not constructed to meet mobility type disabilities to a sufficient level, It doesn’t take too long to notice that the Undergraduate laboratories and research labs are particularly devoid of people with disabilities. This of course does not include the invisible disabilities that might be present, but one must question what is being done to increase the accessibility and therefore the equality of laboratory spaces in academia and industry. Again, the answer although not entirely a no, is still considered a “not good enough.”

Let’s first talk about the current landscape in STEM fields itself. Its not a surprise that there is a low amount of people in STEM with disabilities. For example, reports from the National Science foundation indicate that although 1 in 9 STEM professionals have a disability, most will likely to have a harder time being employed in their field (Kosanic et al., 2018). As well, only 4.3% of students with disabilities choose STEM studies overall (Sukhai et al., 2014). These studies highlight not only the lack of inclusivity but also how employers currently see people with disabilities in STEM- not worth hiring. There is absolutely no reason for employers not to be able to provide equity to all students or at the very least advocate for funding, especially with the establishment of Canada’s Enabling Accessibility Fund (https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/enabling-accessibility-fund.html). To get a better understanding of the current landscape, Cambridge University created a research report in 2018 (Booksh and Madsen, 2018) that I highly recommend.

Don’t get me wrong, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t say I didn’t think the same way before recently. In reflection I have realized that thoughts like “that’s just how it is” and “it would be too dangerous for them to be in here” was how I have seen accessibility in laboratory spaces. I can honestly say this is a naïve way of thinking and unfortunately, partly due to the scientific pace we work in, was not refuted till now. It is obvious that there are certainly ways to include all people, and a responsibility for PIs, industry leaders and lab workers to provide these changes for accessibility.

I will say that things are improving: STEM professionals with disabilities are covered under The Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Kosanic et al., 2018) established by the United Nations in 2006. There are also programs being developed that focus on “Universal Instructural Design” which goals is to provide equity in teaching practices (sukhai et al., 2014). Universities are also starting to change laboratory architecture to suit the needs of their students.  One example is the iScience lab at McMaster University, which space and teachings provide options for both mental and physical disabilities.

As great as this is, the process of become more accommodating is still slow and is not in the forefront of the minds of the STEM researchers and administration. For example, the new Science Commons building made structural modifications for accessibility only after the building was started. Even now, despite the additions of the moving lab benches and fume hoods, there are still missing aspects such as automatic doors to the lab, specialized equipment ect. And what about the graduate labs where the innovative research happens? There is a complete neglect for future and current graduate students with disabilities. As far as I know there are no automatic doors to any lab within the new building, not to mention that the doors themselves would barely allow for a wheelchair to pass through.  What kind of example are we giving to students with disabilities where they are now allowed to work in lab classes but cannot work in labs that facilitate independent studies? As much as the University may advocate about their attempts at providing access they are still limiting where students can work safely and effectively.  

The thing that worries me the most is the current landscape of hiring. As there is more competition in finding successful job positions, how are we ensuring that students succeed after postsecondary education?

Universities are still limiting the talents that come to this school as well as those wanting to stay to pursue graduate studies. Steps are needed to not only provide equity to undergraduate students but for graduate students, researchers and faculty in all labs and in all facilities. Until then we are not reaching equity standards of learning in the STEM fields. Despite apprehensions for students to work in these environments what are we to judge when we do not even provide small and economical adjustments that will allow them to excel?

 

Resources:

  1. Booksh, K., & Madsen, L. (2018). Academic pipeline for scientists with disabilities. MRS Bulletin, 43(8), 625-632. doi:10.1557/mrs.2018.194
  2. Kosanic, A., Hansen, N., Zimmermann-Janschitz, S., & Chouinard, V. (2018). Researchers with disabilities in the academic system. AAG Newsletter. doi: 10.14433/2017.0042
  3. Sukai, M., Mohler, C., Doyle, T., Carson, E., Nieder, C., Levy-Pinto, D., Duffett, E., & Smith, F. (2014). Creating an Accessible Science Laboratory Environment for Students with Disabilities. Accessed http://www.accessiblecampus.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Creating-an-Accessible-Science-Laboratory-Environment.pdf

Leadership Module: EDI blogs Sydnee Calhoun

The feminine mystique: Perspectives on femininity within STEM

By Sydnee Calhoun

As Bette Midler once said, “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” (Statesman, 1980). But does this statement hold true (literally) for females who pursue careers in STEM? A study from 2012 suggested that feminine women in STEM actually decreased middle-school aged girls’ interests in mathematics and what they expected their success to be (Betz and Sekaquaptewa, 2012). The authors attributed this to the girls foreseeing being both feminine and successful as unlikely to occur together.

As a young girl, I always enjoyed dressing up and as I grew older, my enjoyment of fashion did not diminish. I would not consider myself to be a “girly girl”, but I definitely embrace my femininity. Growing up though, I never considered, at least consciously, that this negatively impacted my potential to succeed particularly in any field I wanted to pursue, which contradicts what the study had found. Inherently, this issue arises from gender biases that exist within STEM and moreover in academia. Within academia itself, masculine-like dress is seen as the “dress code” with a blazer, dress pants, and tie. However, female professors who wear variations on this are assumed to be attempting to make a power move. Women who dress more casually are also more likely seen as being at a lower status level than they are. Given this set up as a lose-lose situation for women, what is the stereotype that women are assumed to fit within STEM?

Traditionally, women are perceived as being unfeminine within STEM. After being involved with lab work since 2015, I understand why it would be easier and more logical to not really care, or perceive to care, about how you dress. Lab work requires a significant amount of time, involving long days with minimal down time. Given that you have to stay in one area, it makes sense that many individuals who work in labs, particularly women, forego doing their hair, wearing makeup, or wearing clothes and shoes that may not be comfortable to work in. Trying to look fashionable is difficult when all you want are clothes and shoes that will be comfortable and functional when you are standing and walking around the lab for up to 8 hours a day.

But what if female scientists choose to dress in clothes that may not scream “comfort” to other peers in the lab? Well, it seems like this appears to have a mixed opinion within the field. Last year, this op-ed published by Meghan Wright brought up controversy with academics using social media for scientific outreach and showing a different side of science to the general public. The author mainly wanted to bring up the point that it is predominantly females who are more heavily involved in scientific outreach. Moreover, many people seem to believe that this work is being done to correct the previous (and ongoing) issues with women working in STEM. The backlash to this article was mainly that it seemed to be targeted towards one specific person, Science Sam. A rebuttal piece published highlighted how Wright’s original article played into the common trope, that is becoming more acknowledged, in shaming the work of other women, particularly more feminine women. Additionally, the rebuttal highlighted how no solutions were put forward to address the issue of women putting more time towards outreach in the original article. They suggest that universities should actively hire individuals to do this work since it does have benefits and allowing this to be a part of the tenure process due to the time commitment. As someone who has a Teaching Assistantship with outreach, this is beneficial as it also aid in validating that the university believes outreach is helpful in diversifying STEM programs. However, these two articles indicate that there are still issues with women being able to dress and act as they like without experiencing backlash from other women. There is a systemic issue of women feeling like they are competing against each other. This does not help with women feeling comfortable in this work environment. If women feel like they are being judged for dressing more femininely, especially by other women, this does not help create a diverse and inclusive environment for everyone.

Taking into consideration male influence on how women feel they are perceived while dressing more femininely also further complicates this situation. An article by Eve Forster describes how as a teaching assistant, she had decided to wear her hair down as a fellow student had been teasing her about constantly wearing it up in a bun. On this particular day, a male student had asked her about what would be on an upcoming mid-term, and despite her being the TA and providing an answer, the student failed to recognize her as a figure of authority. She went on to further test using Twitter the types of responses she received by using a female and male avatar and name for one week. Notably she found subtle differences in the responses she received from other users with a decrease in criticism as a male, which enabled her to feel more confident on this platform. What’s interesting from this article is that not only did Eve receive comments from anonymous users on Twitter, but also from her student and a colleague. I think many people do not think of receiving comments about how we look one day influencing one’s confidence, but maybe this does have an unconscious effect.

Does this mean that it is better to not comment on someone’s fashion choices? It seems like this also has a mixed response. An opinion post suggests that when you challenge certain stereotypes or seem too much like what is expected of you warrants comments from others. While receiving compliments is nice, it does sometimes make me overthink why that individual said whatever they did, even if it is positive. While most people, including myself, are guilty of making unassuming comments when someone has dressed differently than they normally do, maybe it would make them feel a little more at ease to not have unsolicited comments made to them.

So, should women dress more femininely to break stereotypes or should they not to decrease the competency and likeability issue? I think this article provides a nice summary of this issue. No matter how you dress or act, female scientists are challenged by society by partaking in STEM. Be yourself. If this means that you prefer to wear hoodies, jeans, sweatpants, flannel, or suit pieces, you should feel comfortable in being able to work in your profession without being subjected to negative comments or self-doubt about your abilities. Young children should see both examples of female scientists so that they know you can be successful in STEM no matter how you choose to dress. In doing so, this will help to create an inclusive environment for everyone to work in. Wearing the right shoe should be able to help you conquer the world, no matter if it is a runner or has a heel.

References:

Betz, D. E., & Sekaquaptewa, D. (2012). My Fair Physicist? Feminine Math and Science Role Models Demotivate Young Girls. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(6), 738–746. doi: 10.1177/1948550612440735

Chen, A. (2018, March 16). Scolding female scientists for embracing Instagram doesn’t solve the gender gap in STEM. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/16/17128808/scicomm-gender-diversity-women-stem-instagram.

Forster, E. (2017, May 4). “As a woman in science, I need to conceal my femininity to be taken seriously”. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from https://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/5/4/15536932/women-stem-science-feminism.

Jarreau, P. (2018, November 8). The Consequences of Being Girly in STEM. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from http://www.fromthelabbench.com/from-the-lab-bench-science-blog/2018/11/7/the-consequences-of-being-girly-in-stem.

Lodwick, A. (2016, August 31). Unsolicited: Why do we comment on other people’s appearances? Retrieved September 29, 2019, from http://feminartsy.com/unsolicited-why-do-we-comment-on-other-peoples-appearances/.

Statesman, H. (1980, January 13). Ask Them Yourself: Question for Bette Midler, Section: Family Weekly (Newspaper Supplement), Page unnumbered, Second Page of Section, Column 2, Yonkers, New York.

Stavrakopoulou, F. (2014, October 26). Female academics: don’t power dress, forget heels – and no flowing hair allowed. Retrieved September 29, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/oct/26/-sp-female-academics-dont-power-dress-forget-heels-and-no-flowing-hair-allowed.

Wright, M. (2018, April 12). Why I don’t use Instagram for science outreach. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2018/03/why-i-dont-use-instagram-science-outreach.