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Symposium - Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Science: from Policy to Implementation

Conference Day: 
Day 3 - November 9th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in Science: from Policy to Implementation

Organized by: Imogen Coe, Faculty of Science, Ryerson University

Speakers: Dr. Art Blake, Associate Professor and ECI Faculty Chair, Ryerson University; Deanna Burgart, Self-proclaimed Indigeneer™; engineer, speaker, and mentor; Dr. Danika Goosney, Associate Vice-President, Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat; Dr. Steven Murphy, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Moderator: Imogen Coe, Professor, Chemistry and Biology, Ryerson University

Takeaways and recommendations

EDI is excellence

  • Policies for EDI are policies for excellence.

  • Groups that are more diverse perform better.

  • Participants who feel fully included will also perform better.

  • It is important to frame issues involving EDI as issues of innovation, discovery and excellence.

EDI is intersectional and multi-faceted

  • Often, groups of people (women, Indigenous people, etc.) are treated as a single homogenous group.

  • There are varying privileges in terms of age, language, gender identity, backgrounds, cultures, skin colour, socioeconomic status, disabilities, sexual orientation, etc.

  • Trans people, for example, are often left out of the gender conversation, and yet they face extreme systematic barriers.

  • This intersectionality needs to be part of every EDI conversation.

Honest conversations are critical

  • In many cases, those charged with enforcing EDI focus on achieving short-term goals and mandates, rather than why EDI is important.

  • Strengthening EDI in science is an economic imperative. This fact is becoming increasingly recognized by policymakers, funding organizations, post-secondary institutions and other parts of the research ecosystem.

  • Effective social change takes time and is difficult for several reasons: i.e., perceived challenges to power can incite pushback; policy development can be slow and complex.

  • Though many have trouble admitting it, there is systemic racism and sexism in Canada.

  • EDI discussions make people feel uncomfortable and therefore they may avoid the conversation. This situation is exasperated in Canada where people are conditioned to be polite and non-confrontational.

  • Theses tendencies can result in bias and prejudice staying hidden and unchecked.

  • Explain that discomfort is a normal and healthy part of the process of achieving EDI.

EDI is a core competency

  • Many EDI initiatives target K-12 youth, but without broader systematic change these efforts are often dropped by high school.

  • Although mentors can be hugely effective, the data show the effect is only short-term.

  • Canada needs to create a culture where everyone gets training on how to be a good ally, how to call out bad behaviour, implement an EDI culture, etc.

  • We need to teach EDI principals and skills as a core part of our education system, from kindergarten to post-secondary. This will help society move from a culture of compliance (i.e., where people just do something because they think they should/ might be penalized) to one where understanding and implementation of EDI principles becomes an expected competency.

Changing the organizational climate

  • The most predictable predicator of harassment is the organizational climate.

  • Organizations must make system-wide changes to make a difference (not just one-off events like a STEM camp for girls).

  • Initiatives must be supported by, and sometimes originate from, the people in power.

  • It is not always easy to enact change, even for people in positions of power. Strategies to succeed include coming to the table with specific issues you want to champion, and as you enact them, knowing which battles are the right ones to spend energy on.

  • Usually, just telling people they are wrong, racist, etc. will not work. Rather, come up with creative strategies that help others understand that everyone will do better if the workplace is more diverse and equitable.

  • If an organization/institution is adjusting an operation (e.g., peer review), it should not assume it has the expertise to do this itself – EDI professionals need to be engaged.

  • There needs to be real consequences (i.e., incentives for compliance and/or punishment for non-compliance) for EDI targets.

  • Mandatory EDI training is critical but it has to be done in a productive way.

Creating a productive learning environment

  • It is difficult to involve people in EDI training if they see it as a waste of their time.

  • Lectures are ineffective in EDI training. People have to feel they are part of the conversation and understand that it affects everyone.

  • Blaming and shaming do have their time and place, but in an educational environment they tend to be counterproductive.

  • Making training ‘fun’ (e.g., quizzes, gamification) can help break down people’s prejudices/fears and engage them so they will actually listen.

  • The learning environment needs to be a place people can say the wrong thing or make mistakes so they feel comfortable getting involved in the activities or discussion.

  • There may need to be consequences for people who don’t go or who fail training –otherwise, some people won’t put in an effort.

Making EDI a priority

  • Government and institutions often have no specific deadline for achieving EDI, which can make EDI seems like a lower priority.

  • Ideas for those working on internal EDI initiatives include:

    • If there are other departments/organizations/etc. that are ahead of you in implementing EDI policies, actively and vocally compare yourself to them.

    • Articulate why EDI is important to excellence.

    • Be persistent – keep talking to everyone about the EDI work you are doing and why.

    • Find influencers and people who are in power who care, and others with a strong passion for the work, and engage them.

    • Don’t just focus on the negative. Celebrate, as frequently as monthly, and then educate to raise awareness (e.g., Ada Lovelace Day, Trans Awareness Month). Such celebrations are often low-resource and difficult to criticize.

    • Keep all EDI work intersectional; e.g., if you are working on the gender file, celebrate Black History Month and Pride Week, and include trans folk in the conversation.

  • Those who are invited to speak (and have the power/privilege to do so) should hold conferences accountable by refusing to attend if they don’t have an acceptable code of conduct.

Metrics are important

  • Effective policy is transparent, evidence-informed and data-driven.

  • The government and institutions need to collect and analyze EDI data to know if progress is being made and if efforts need to be adjusted.

  • Assign resources to ensure measurement is done properly.

  • Avoid reporting on just women or visible minorities generally. A deeper dive is needed to drive meaningful change.

  • Data can speak for people who don’t have a voice or may get into trouble for speaking up.

Indigenizing and decolonizing systems

  • Indigenizing is a large systemic overhaul that includes adding examples, perspectives, worldviews, etc. so that Indigenous people see their non-homogenous selves respected.

  • Most systems currently ask Indigenous, Inuit and First Nations to come into a western structure and assimilate. More work is needed on listening to their knowledge and learning about their structures.

  • Institutions need spaces where non-Indigenous people are exposed to, and can begin to understand and accept, Indigenous perspectives.

  • Canada need not start from scratch There are many places it can look for models and best practices:

    • New Zealand is well aligned and integrated with Maori in research.

    • SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) has a conference that is completely STEM focused but designed and implemented in a culturally appropriate way.

    • AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) focuses on “substantially increasing the representation of American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, First Nations and other indigenous peoples of North America in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies and careers.”

Canada needs more nation-wide organizations championing the cause

  • There are good examples of nation-wide organizations pushing EDI forward in other countries (e.g., WISE campaign and Athena SWAN in UK, and Male Champions of Change in the US).

  • Canada does not have any initiatives like these, though recent commitment to adopt Athena SWAN is a positive step.

Insights on being an ally

  • Everybody can be champions, allies or sponsors.

  • “Allyship” is an action, not a philosophy.

  • Educate yourself: what you can say depends on where you are and what the context is.

  • There are lots of helpful resources including books and trainings on allyship

  • Become an ally for systemic change in your institution (e.g., ask for EDI training).

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