Just What the Doctor Ordered
We need to increase diversity – and talking is not enough.
One of my favorite moments of SciX 2018 was the unveiling of Karen Esmonde-White’s costume for the Gala celebration (you’ll already know this, if you follow me on Twitter: @Editor_Jo). There was something immensely satisfying about being at a conference chaired by a woman – and a woman who chose to represent the first female iteration of a much-beloved sci-fi character (Doctor Who, if you’re lost!).
SciX, for me, is a highlight of the analytical conference calendar, because – among other reasons – it has an overt history of addressing issues of diversity through its workshops. Its 2015 workshop on “Women in Spectroscopy” inspired my first ever cover feature for The Analytical Scientist, “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass (1),” which tackled the topic of sexism in analytical science. The workshop was more recently expanded to cover diversity and underrepresentation more broadly.
But this year, there was no diversity session at SciX. Some people felt that it had become an echo chamber, with successful women preaching to the converted. Surely, as valuable as it is to share experiences, it’s time for more tangible efforts.
Any publication, any workforce, any institution needs to periodically ask itself if actions to ensure (more) equal representation are i) adequate, ii) appropriate, and iii) effective. However far we’ve come, thrusting those who face discrimination of any sort into the public eye still appears to be an uphill battle. You only have to read the intense media reaction to this year’s Nobel Prize winners to see that a woman’s name on the list is still newsworthy. And let’s not forget the female Doctor Who…
There are many possible reasons for this – lack of opportunity or recognition, entrenched prejudice, unconscious bias – but it’s time for us all to do our bit, and that goes beyond raising awareness. Could you, as a senior academic, champion underrepresented students? What can you, as a lab manager or department head, do to make the working culture more supportive and flexible? How could you affect change as a conference committee member?
Achieving equality could be the result of a revolution or – more likely – gradual evolution. But one thing is certain – when it comes to boosting diversity, we need less talk and more action.
A former library manager and storyteller, I have wanted to write for magazines since I was six years old, when I used to make my own out of foolscap paper and sellotape and distribute them to my family. Since getting my MSc in Publishing, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and content creator for both digital and print, writing on subjects such as fashion, food, tourism, photography – and the history of Roman toilets. Now I can be found working on The Analytical Scientist, finding the ‘human angle’ to cutting-edge science stories.