I am on a University-level equity and diversity committee, tasked with addressing Innovation U’s abysmal record for their highest honours (research chairs, etc.).
The committee is overseen by our VP Equity, who wants reports every quarter, but only the urgent stuff.
The committee is chaired by our new Canada 150 research chair, who is a dynamic, highly talented woman with modest to minor prior experience with diversity.
The committee was built by the chair, who recruited folk she had met in her ~3 months tenure at Innovation U, and who represented a variety of faculties in STEM.
They (including myself) were all women.
Upon seeing the email invite list for our inaugural meeting, I emailed the chair to respectfully recuse myself from the committee so I could be replaced with a male, citing two main points: (1) the reverse gender imbalance would be reviled, and thus this one should be too – perhaps we should endeavour to build a diversity and equity committee that reflected our ideal outcomes for the programs, and (2) some literature showing the burden of service held by women in academia, suggesting an all-female committee was exacerbating that issue.
The committee met last week with its original composition, and I was given the chance to voice my concerns. Once I had, four of the six other committee members chimed in to echo the same issues. I have no doubt no one else was going to say anything if I hadn’t.
I was the youngest and the only non-tenured person in the room. I’m just mouthy. And I’ve done quite a lot of reading around implicit biases, inequity in STEM, and women in STEM, so, while I am not at all experienced in developing policy, I have a reasonable sense of what is a good plan and what is unmitigated BS.
We will be adding some men to the committee, again from a variety of faculties.
Our remit is, in short, to rectify the issue with massive gender and diversity disparities within the award nomination and allocation programs at Innovation U.
Our current plans include leadership workshops and recruitment seminars to get more women in STEM…….
2003 called. They want their diversity initiatives back, please.
I’m mad. I want off this misguided, uninformed, over-remitted committee. I should stay though, because when our VP Research mentioned our one award program had nominated 38 men out of 40 applicants for an award in the past six years, I was the only one who asked if the process was one of self-nomination. “Yes”, he said, “but then there is an adjudication process”. I said I was willing to bet $20 that the gender disparity happened at the nomination stage and not the adjudication stage. “You are bang on!” he said, surprised. There was a frisson of surprise around the table.
We don’t need more women in early STEM stages. We don’t need new adjudication systems (or at least, we have no data yet to suggest we do (specifically at my institution)). We need support systems that remind women to nominate themselves, or better yet, nominate them directly for awards of this kind, to recognize the superb science they are already doing.
We need equity training that highlights the known discrepancies in women’s application packages, especially in reference letters. We need job search committees to know about the study showing that one woman in a field of 4 interviewees will never get the job, but when there are at least two, it becomes as likely as statistics would predict. Same for minorities.
I can stay on this committee, and really invest, and maybe make a small change for the better, a more modern and informed approach.
I can stay on this committee, and maybe end up jaded, disillusioned, and with a reputation for being difficult – pre-tenure.
I can recuse myself, but then I’ll know that nothing strong and satisfactory will come from this, and our problems will continue.
I’m going to stay, but if I mismanage this and it ends up biting me in the tookus, I’m going to be irritated.