When we discuss the many identities we carry in our lives, the most commonly listed are often race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and disability status. When we discuss diversity and inclusion, our efforts often center on one of, if not the intersection of, these identities. However, one core identity for many of us has seemed to slip through our collective radar – religion and spirituality. “In an era when colleges are expanding their engagement of diversity issues, and at a time when religion plays a central role in public life and global affairs, religion continues to be the dimension of diversity that many institutions leave out.” This is a central claim in Eboo Patel’s article “Faith Is The Diversity Issue Ignored by College Campuses” published in The Chronicle of Higher Education in October 2018. In the article, she discusses the possibilities and needs on campuses to recognize this difference. Additionally, she asserts that efforts for religious inclusivity on campus are underfunded, if funded at all. She writes about the transformative possibilities of having interfaith dialogues and unpacking stereotypes and prejudices. As soon as I read this it seemed to immediately ‘click’ – and I’ve become pretty passionate about the subject. Eboo Patel is right – religious diversity is often left out. Why should we start paying attention to this?
If you are interested in connecting with GradSWE’s Diversity & Inclusion team and our initiatives please contact Diversity & Inclusion Liaison Andrea Haverkamp at email@example.com. We look forward to meeting you!
Engineering is a male dominated field. There’s really no dispute about that. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 15.9% of employed engineering and architectural professionals are women. SWE and GradSWE are open to people of all genders – this includes men. Men, being in the majority, can play arguably an extremely important role in making engineering a discipline which is inclusive, welcoming, and celebrating of women and other underrepresented genders. Today, nearly 50% of women in engineering will experience sexual harassment by male peers – it will take male allies to bring this number to 0%.
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, published by Peggy McIntosh in 1989, was written to assist white individuals to identify the ways in which being white gives them often invisible advantages in many areas of their daily life. As a white person, reading this piece was deeply influential in shaping my own ever-evolving understanding of my own power, privilege, and role in society. Unpacking privilege can be a critical first step in fostering active allyship.
In the decades that have followed there have been writings on other forms of privilege such as heterosexual privilege, able-bodied privilege, and male privilege which is the subject of this article. The North American Students of Cooperation put together a resource titled the “Male Privilege Checklist” which outlines some invisible ways that men can be privileged in their daily and gives tips for allyship. There are 27 in this resource – it is absolutely worth a read and a download! We seek to adapt this resource for our male peers inside and outside of SWE:
What are some of the daily examples of male privilege that might be experienced in engineering/?
- The odds of being hired for a job, when competing against non-male identified applicants, are probably skewed in my favor.
- If I fail in my job or career, I can feel certain this won’t be seen as an indicator of my entire gender’s capabilities.
- The odds of me encountering sexual harassment on the job are very low.
- If I have children and pursue a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home with them.
- I can be somewhat sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will face another male. The higher up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.
- My ability to make important decisions and my professional capability in general will not be questioned regardless of what time of the month it is.
- The decision to hire me will not be based on assumptions about whether or not I may choose to have children sometime soon.
- I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.
Being aware that these are true for men in engineering, who make up almost 86% of working professionals, is an important concept for male allies of women in engineering to acknowledge as they progress through graduate education and prepare for the workforce whether they are entering academia or industry.
A critique of such a “privilege checklist” can be summed up as, “now what?” What can be done? Do we just acknowledge these privileges and then move on? The North American Students of Cooperation also created an informative and useful resource called the “Allyship Packet” which discusses how folks of dominant identities can all be allies as white people, men, normative-gender individuals, Christian individuals, and straight-identified people. This is an amazing read for all, even other women in engineering, since we all will need to act as allies to each other in various circumstances. We all have many identities in our lives. Consider checking this out and downloading it as well – it will be a great resource as we strive to be inclusive and welcoming in engineering!
As a male ally, I can…
- Demonstrate knowledge and awareness of the issues of gender oppression.
- This can include being aware of male privilege, and issues facing women in engineering.
- Be present at meetings to make sure male privilege and gender oppression are part of the discussion.
- If women are being spoken over, questioned in their ability, having projects taken away from them, or experience sexual harassment, I make it a part of professional dialogue.
- Be willing and able to call other men out on their actions, words, and issues.
- It is important to realize that being an ally includes conversations that are man-to-man.
- Raise issues about gender oppression over and over, both in public and in private.
- I am becoming an advocate and reading resources / news from SWE and GradSWE!
- Accept and encourage leadership from non-male identified people.
- When leadership positions or projects become available, consider recommending your women (and other non-male) colleagues for the position.
- Understand that non-male identified people often have valid experiences that cause them to feel distrustful of, wary of, or angry at men. I do not take it as a personal attack. Nor do I try to make them feel guilty for feeling these things about men. I remember that “its not all about me.”
- None of this is an attack, and you are not a bad person by default. This is just daily life that many women want to bring awareness to and discuss.
- Continually educate myself and others about gender oppression.
- Being an ally – regardless of the group – is a lifelong process. It requires all of us to be dedicated. This includes male allyship in engineering!
- Model positive behavior for my friends and other men by setting an example.
- Leading by example is how I engage in healthy and exemplary masculinity.
We hope this helps and can serve as a resource for others. We are all in this – together!
We are putting together an online virtual reading and video watching club – please consider joining! In early February we are discussing intersectional feminism and kyriarchy. Contact Diversity & Inclusion Liaison Andrea Haverkamp at firstname.lastname@example.org for this and other involvement in the Diversity & Inclusion Team in GradSWE We look forward to meeting you!
I’ve seen several colleagues go through their graduate career and get to the ‘mid-life crisis’ point. You may be familiar with it: frustration at experiments or advisors, trouble finding a job, proposals get rejected, wondering if you made the right decision entering grad school in the first place. The good news is, that phase is a common symptom of people who are nearing the completion of grad school, if they resolve to be finished and move on to bigger and better things.
It’s at this point that many people seek mentors. And GradSWE can help with that, connecting you to people who can offer encouragement, share their journeys in your particular field, be a sounding board for you next steps, and serve as role models in a career path you may be interested in.
But what you may not realize is that there are many grad students and undergrads in GradSWE who would love to talk to someone like you too, for the exact same reasons you may be interested in a mentor yourself! Your experiences presenting at lab meetings and conferences, drafting articles on your research, working in industry, figuring out which experiment to run next and how, juggling lab and classes and life, learning about potential career paths in your field, and many, many other things you’ve accomplished even in your first few years are nuggets of gold to those aspiring to follow in your footsteps. If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? What do you wish you knew? You already have all you need to make a very real difference in someone’s life. And what’s more, you might just learn something yourself, gain a great connection or friendship, and develop the marketable skills of training and developing others.
So if you’re interested in getting connected and sharing the love, we’d love to have you as part of GradSWE’s mentoring program! To learn more about it, visit http://gradswe.swe.org/mentoring.html or email the Mentoring Team at email@example.com. To become a mentor, simply fill out the form with a few details on your experiences ( https://goo.gl/forms/M13dEyBkJYZKgCMW2 ). If you’re a grad student interested in getting connected to a mentor yourself, you can enroll through this link: https://goo.gl/forms/zNHhPv6Al2bhL4I33 . And remember, you’re more valuable than you think, and we’d love to have you as a mentor!
GradSWE Mentoring Co-Coordinator 2018
As graduate students, it can feel as though we have little power to change institutional practices that would increase diversity in a meaningful way. However, my own experience has shown that current graduate students can take action to encourage their university to add or improve diversity initiatives. I wanted to take this blog post as an opportunity to highlight some successful initiatives being implemented by universities across the country and then to suggest some ways that we, as students, can help enact change. It is my hope that by sharing these ideas, they can be adopted in more places and further improved.
Many universities are beginning to recognize that an effective way to attract talented minority applicants is to simply make the effort to recruit at conferences and universities with many minority undergrads. Universities already send representatives to conferences, and by choosing to recruit at new places, they are able to diversify their applicant pool and make a PhD seem attainable.
In a similar vein, some universities have begun hosting diversity preview weekends for minority students. I know that such a weekend was key in my decision of where to go to undergrad; thus, I am hopeful that such programs will similarly help convince more minority students to pursue a graduate degree. Yale University recently started a pilot program of this sort after a couple of students decided to meet with the graduate school’s diversity office to suggest it. Many other universities are also looking for ways to increase diversity on campus and may similarly be open to such a program. If you are mentoring any minority undergrads, then I would highly encourage you to direct them to Científico Latino, which lists many more programs of this sort, including ones at Georgia Tech, Ohio State, and MIT.
One of the frequent comments I have received from administrators when trying to increase diversity and inclusion on campus has been that it is “impossible” to get faculty to do anything. Therefore, I am always incredibly inspired (and heartened) by programs that have successfully motivated faculty to support diversity initiatives. A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Sherilynn Black, the Associate Vice President of Faculty Development at Duke University, when she came to campus to speak about her success increasing the acceptance and inclusion of minority graduate students at Duke. (If you’d like to hear Dr. Black speak about persisting in STEM as a minority, then check out her inspiring talk from the 2016 SACNAS Conference.)
I was particularly impressed by her continual insistence that faculty members should be taking a larger role in creating a supportive environment for minority students and that the burden of diversity work should not be placed on the students themselves. This was particularly inspiring, as she has actually managed to increase faculty buy-in through “culturally-aware mentoring” workshops that faculty are required to attend if their graduate students are on certain grants.
These trainings are successful, in part, because they make faculty members aware of their own culture and background, and thus more accepting of where their student’s background might be different. Furthermore, they assume that most faculty members do want to be effective mentors and frame the trainings through this lens. Duke has also put together an extensive site devoted to mentoring, if you’d like to check out more resources on this topic.
Suggestions for making these a reality
If you’d like to increase minority graduate student recruitment and retention at your university, here are some tips from my own experiences to get you started.
- Collaborate with the other diversity groups on campus: As my mom used to say, “many hands make light work;” besides, many voices raised together are harder to ignore. To that end, my gradSWE section increases our reach by collaborating with other diversity groups. These groups have connections with administrators beyond the ones we normally interact with, who can help provide funding or institutional support for our ideas. Furthermore, these groups intimately know the problems facing their own members; together we can craft solutions that support all under-represented groups.
- Start at the department level: I have found it much easier to encourage faculty who I already have a relationship with to come to diversity events. Additionally, I have found that trainings at the department level can increase buy-in, particularly when the department chair is supportive of the events.
- Find sponsors and advocates: Finding the administrators or professors who care about these issues–and are willing to champion them–can make all the difference in turning your recruitment and retention ideas into reality. In addition to providing funding, they can also encourage their colleagues to support your initiatives and attend trainings.
- Don’t be afraid to ask: If you have ideas of how you can improve your department or school, schedule a meeting with administrators to share them. From my work on our university’s Title IX board, I learned that oftentimes, administrators don’t realize something is a problem for graduate students because no one has spoken up. Even if you are unsuccessful in pitching your idea, you may find some other program that you can help implement or lay the groundwork for the next person who makes a similar request.
- Don’t give up: While many schools profess a commitment to increasing diversity, it is an uphill battle to realize change. Administrators will often be unwilling to make large changes, but keep advocating for and supporting your fellow graduate students. Together, we will be able to realize more inclusive graduate programs.
I’ll end this blog post by inviting you to share with me any additional programs that you know of that have been successful in increasing the recruitment or retention of minority students. If you email these stories to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I would love to feature them in further blog posts. Whether it is something your university’s diversity office has implemented or a program run by your SWE section, please send it my way.
Last month I planned a symposium entitled “Equity in the Job Search” that integrated career advice with discussion of the biases facing women during the job search. Part of the philosophy behind this symposium is that since everyone exhibits gender bias, we can’t address the problem in lasting ways without including people of all genders in crafting solutions. However, as I have realized through planning similar events in the past, getting men to attend a “gender” workshop is challenging. Sadly, this difficulty is only more prevalent for other underrepresented groups.
As part of my push to get more male grad students to attend this symposium, I wrote a motivation page about the many benefits of diversity. This blog post expands on those thoughts, illustrating how a more inclusive culture has far-reaching benefits for everyone in an organization. I hope that this post will be useful to anyone trying to convince those around them that diversity issues are relevant beyond the members of underrepresented groups.
The benefits of increasing diversity can be seen by comparing the financial performance of diverse companies to that of their less diverse counterparts. Scientific American clearly lays out several studies that have illustrated this effect:
- After Orlando Richard, a professor of management at the University of Texas at Dallas, and his colleagues surveyed executives at 177 national banks in the U.S., they found that for innovation-focused banks, increases in racial diversity were clearly correlated with enhanced financial performance.
- After examining the influence of gender diversity on the performance of the top firms in Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500 list, business professors Cristian Deszö of the University of Maryland and David Ross of Columbia University showed that firm value increases by $42 million with women in top management positions.
- Similar effects can be found by examining companies across the world: a team of researchers at the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that among 2,360 companies, those with at least one woman on their boards delivered higher average returns on equity and better average growth.
Diversity helps increase creativity and improves company performance because numerous studies have shown that heterogeneous groups prepare better and more thoroughly consider all evidence. Furthermore, social diversity makes it more likely for diverse perspectives to be voiced and considered. This is critical for innovation, which requires looking at problems in new ways.
Inclusion is necessary to realize the benefits of diversity—such as mutual respect, improved conflict resolution, and increased creativity—and to avoid tension between diverse social groups. It is crucial to ensure that these benefits are sustained in the long term. Quotas and other initiatives to increase minority hires can increase the number of women and other minorities in the workforce, but inclusive workplace cultures are necessary to ensure that those hired stay and advance.
However, if those in the dominant group aren’t included in conversations about diversity, then they often lose sight of its benefits or view inclusion as a zero-sum game that puts them at a disadvantage.
I believe that by including members of a majority group in conversations of diversity we can help reduce the impression of diversity initiatives being “us vs them.” This is not to say that we should let those in dominant groups control the conversation about diversity, but that more lasting change can be accomplished by including all players.
I hope that moving forward, we can change the conversation about diversity by showing that everyone benefits from more inclusivity.
Since the conference is in a little over two weeks, I’m going to take this blog post as an opportunity to highlight some of the conference events that are particularly focused on diversity and inclusion.
Before that, I want to highly encourage anyone attending the conference to check out the many events that the Affinity Groups have planned! These include roundtable discussions, socials, and sessions on issues of particular interest to their group. On Thursday, there’s even a “SWE Affinity Groups Workshop” (10:15 – 11:30 am) where you can learn all about these groups and how to get involved.
Thursday, October 26
“Getting the Diverse Mix to Work Well Together: Lessons Learned on Inclusion Techniques” (2 – 3 pm) – This workshop promise to share best practices on creating an inclusive culture and provide attendees with practical actions to employ right away. If you are looking to foster a more inclusive culture in your lab or university more broadly, this talk seems like a great place to start!
“Real Actions to Overcome Unconscious Biases and Become a More Inclusive Leader” (4:30 – 5:30 pm)—All of us have unconscious biases; what is important is how we act on them. This workshop will teach attendees both how to respond when they are the subject of unconscious bias, as well as how to overcome their own personal biases. Through addressing both of these, attendees will be better able to foster an inclusive culture when they return to their labs or offices. If you are looking for another similar talk, check out “Are you Counted or Do you Count?” on Saturday (10 – 11 am).
“Inclusion Today – LGBTQ and Allies News and Tools for Campus and the Workplace” (10:15 – 11:30 am) – Come to this session to learn about some of the challenges facing LGBTQ individuals, as well as what can be done to support LGBTQ people. This workshop promises time for the attendees to practice some first steps to help realize a more inclusive culture.
Friday, October 27
“TECHing While Woman and with Disability” (10 – 11:15 am) – This panel will explore the challenges of being a woman in STEM and having a debilitating condition. With representatives from academia and industry this panel will explore an important, but often overlooked, facet of diversity.
“Breaking down Stigmas and Building Awareness: Mental Health” (1:30 – 2:30 pm) – Attendees will be provided with practical tools to help themselves and those around them be successful, despite a mental illness. By helping breakdown the barriers around mental health, we can help people get help earlier and build more inclusive communities.
“Advocating for Inclusion – A Male’s Perspective” (4 – 5 pm) – Whether you are a man seeking suggestions of how to better promote inclusion of women in your organization or a woman wondering about how best to engage men on diversity issues, this promises to be an informative panel. Men will be able to learn from other men strategies that have worked and women can gain new strategies for best enabling their male allies.
“Courageous Conversations on Diversity and Inclusion” (4 – 5 pm) – If you are looking for a chance to practice the tough conversations necessary to create culture shifts in an organization, then this is the session for you. After giving participants and overview of inclusion strategies that work, there will be an opportunity to practice these strategies in a supportive environment.
Saturday, October 28
“Women of Color in Engineering: Challenges, Opportunities, and Factors to Enhance Inclusion and Retention” (1:30 – 2:30 pm) – Panelists will both share their personal experiences as a women of color in the US, as well as specific, evidence-based strategies that have been proven to increase inclusion and retention of more women of color in engineering.
“Switching Sides – My Professional Journey over the Rainbow” (10 – 11:15 am) – Using the personal story of the presenter in coming out, this session will teach attendees the power of being yourself in furthering your career and the success of their organization.
Still looking for more talks related to diversity and inclusion? Download the WE Events App or check out the WE17 Conference website here. There are even more events under the “Inclusion and Cultural Awareness” session type filter.
If you are attending the conference, hopefully, you’ll be able to take advantage of some of these sessions to gain new tips to foster a more inclusive culture in your lab or department!
Allies are an answer to the question: “how can I support (or be supported by) another group of people?” We are increasingly realizing that diversity issues are not only the concern of minority groups. Sexism doesn’t only affect women; racism, people of color; homophobia, LGBTQ individuals; and so on. The idea of allies brings everyone to the table.
As a woman in engineering, I know firsthand how engaging men can change the conversation to realize truly inclusive practices. This blog post is to help female graduate students find allies, as well as for male graduate students who want to support the women engineers around them.
Although this post was written for the gradSWE community with gender bias in mind, the resources I have included are for anyone who seeks to be a better advocate for another group. Numerous excellent guides exist on becoming a more effective ally or finding an ally for yourself. If you would like to read more, the links that I have provided at the end of this post are a great starting place.
What is an ally and why are they important?
At its most basic level, “An ally is any person who supports, empowers, or stands up for another person or a group of people” (http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/culture/cultural-competence/be-an-ally/main). Robin Hauser Reynolds, whose documentary Code: Debugging the Gender Gap explores the problems facing women in tech, as well as solutions, gives a more practical definition: “A male ally is a man who will advocate for women even when there are no women in the room” (https://www.progressivewomensleadership.com/the-power-of-the-male-ally-engaging-men-advancing-women/).
This definition gets to the heart of why allies matter. Allies have power in the setting that the group they are helping doesn’t have. They are often able to speak up on behalf of another group in a way that is more likely to be heard. This gives allies a special ability to affect change.
I’m seeking allies, where do I start?
If you are seeking allies, then I highly recommend these resources for more information: https://www.progressivewomensleadership.com/the-power-of-the-male-ally-engaging-men-advancing-women/, https://www.maconferenceforwomen.org/engaging-men-critical-creating-inclusive-culture/. I found a lot of good tips for seeking male allies in them. To summarize some takeaways from those articles:
- look for individuals who have empathy
- meet new people and try to engage people who are different from you
- seek out mentors who are not of your group
- assume positive intent
Finally, only cultivate a relationship with someone willing to listen and learn from you. An effective ally won’t always be a perfect advocate; however, it is critical that they listen to and support you. If this is not the case, then seek elsewhere for a new ally, as it is most important to find someone who can empower you.
How can I become an effective ally?
To me, being an effective ally means recognizing, and then acting, when we have power in a situation to advocate for a marginalized group. However, stating that an ally should act in this way is the easy part. How can we actually do this?
Over and over again, as I was reading about being an ally, the importance of listening was emphasized. It is impossible to be an effective ally if we assume we know what the group we are supporting wants without taking the time to listen to them and being willing to learn from those who are different from us. Furthermore, this isn’t something that an ally can do once. We must be willing to continually learn, so that we can truly advocate on the behalf of others who have different and complex needs.
Before being able to act as an ally, we also have to examine our motivation. If we are acting from a place of guilt or, alternatively, from a place of superiority, it is impossible to be an effective ally. We have to see ourselves as equals as those we seeking to empower and be willing to learn from them.
Along the way, we will make mistakes. Therefore, being an ally also requires being adaptable and recognizing when our well-intentioned actions are not helpful. When this happens, we can’t give up, but have to apologize and learn from our mistakes.
The value of allies is becoming increasingly recognized as more of us realize that diversity issues are not only the concern of minority groups and that developing truly inclusive academic and work environments is all of our responsibility. In this post, I focused on those who already recognize that gender bias both exists and is a problem. In later posts, I will explore more fully how we can start to engage those who don’t already believe that diversity issues affect them.
As always, reach out to email@example.com if you have any comments or questions.
General information about being an ally. These two guides aren’t targeted towards any one group, but the explore the topic quite extensively.
Here are some guides for women seeking to engage male allies:
And here are some resources for men seeking to become effective allies for women:
This is an in-depth report of the growth and development of male allies in the workplace: