What is diversity? Within this workshop, we have been primarily defining diversity in terms of race and ethnicity. There is also diversity in gender as well as diversity in career paths. Diversity in the chemical workforce should not be framed solely within a discussion of academic achievement as the one and only possible route for a success story. Success stories are also to be found in industry. We should therefore think about the need for diversity in many different directions. We should think about it in a holistic kind of way, if you will pardon a new-age term. It is all related. So, do not try to solve just one diversity problem within a particular setting. Instead think about how solving that problem might fit in within the context of all the other problems.
A most important action item in this sense is the delivery of the diversity message. Do not just come to a diversity meeting or workshop and say, “this is my contribution to diversity for the year because I attended this workshop.” Go back and talk to members of your institution and let them know what facts you discussed, for example, diversity models that work and how diversity should be viewed within the context of your institution.
A common theme in our group discussion came under the refrain, “programs, programs, programs.” In today’s lectures, we heard about several new and successful diversity programs. However, there is a sentiment that at many workshops one often hears about new programs or initiatives and that in general there is an increasing proliferation of such programs every year. Unfortunately, the fact is that the success stories have not seemingly proliferated. That is, the success stories do not seem to be increasing at the same rapid rate at which the programs have increased. So, the question is, What do we need to do with these programs, and how can the increase in the proliferation of these programs increase the success stories? The group consensus is that we need to buy in. But from whom do we need buy-in?
We need the buy-in from the students. We will get this kind of buy-in if we advise them properly. How do we advise them properly? Let us start by advising their teachers. A lot of capable teachers have an idea of what they need to do to prepare the kids to apply successfully to college, but maybe they do not have a good enough idea of what those kids’ needs are in order to be successful in college. For those of us who are faculty members, the burden is therefore on us to educate these teachers, particularly high school (9th-12th grade) teachers and counselors, on what they need to teach the students before they go to college. Perhaps with this better preparation, we can have a higher yield of success stories at the college level.
We need to persuade the importance of buy-in to the entire faculty and administrators. That is, we need buy-in from ourselves. It is an excellent advance to exclaim that diversity is important. However, at the end of the day, or better yet, at the end of the year, when you are expecting a promotion, nothing that you do to enhance diversity affects your promotion or your salary increase. Clearly, diversity has not been an issue in measuring most of our academic careers. Perhaps this could be factored into the equation.
We need buy-in from funding agencies. For example, when a funding agency is asked whether or not they will renew your grant, perhaps the agency could base their consideration on how well you have handled diversity at your place of business. This is a double-edged sword because we want such grants to be based solely on the scientific merit. The challenge is to achieve this quality and yet reward investigators who enhance diversity.
How do we define a success story? By success, I do not just mean absolute success, as in whether the science is good, which of course is part of the question. Instead, we are also asking whether the social context of the success story is also one that has promoted diversity. There are at least two parts to this question: