[This event was attended by Dr. Kimberly Scott on June 12, 2018 in Washington, D.C. The roundtable was part of an invitation-only day-long conference presented by the National Academies of Sciences. In attendance were 100 leading experts in issues related to diversity in STEM education and workforce. To facilitate a personal reflection, Dr. Scott was interviewed by CGEST Staff to reflect on her experience attending this event. ]
Would you please give some background on what this event was?
The Theme was “Changing the Face of STEM: A Transformational Journey.” The goal was to come up with solution-based strategies that will address the disparity of underrepresented minorities, particularly in bachelor’s degree programs. I, along with others, were invited specifically by the National Academies of Science to attend and participate.
How would you describe your initial impressions of the event?
It was great to walk into the room of about a hundred attendees and see people I knew; there were program officers, federal level experts, scholars, world-renowned researchers and labs represented at this event. Overall, this event was a call to action, a chance for us to find solutions to the problems that have been identified over and over again because we often don’t get an opportunity to dialogue about solutions. We were also all interviewed for a movie by Crystal Emery.
What did you do at this event?
We were put into groups of 6-7 people at each table and given a prompt for which we needed to come up with a pitch and present it to the room. Our group developed a proposal to make more federal level policies that would hold institutions accountable for demonstrating parity (which would also need better ways to be measured) by withholding government funds for non-compliant institutions.
How did you feel that your presentation was received?
Great! We were the best one, in my opinion, and it was very well received. Each table stood up to present their solutions; our presenter was Shirley Malcom, the Director of Education and Human Resources Programs at AAAS. Giving feedback on the presentation was a panel of experts; they said that it was a great idea to take a more systemic approach.
What are 3 notable things you remember from this event?
There were clear themes running through all presentations that focused on community – building coalitions that were cooperative and weren’t just one entity telling other ones what to do – and measurement – how we assess the work being done regarding parity. Another thing that stood out to me were the number of initiatives that are forthcoming, or new and unknown, like AAAS’s SEA Change, which is creating better criteria for what universities should be doing to address under-representation.
Were there any interesting questions that came up at this event?
“Now what?” Many ideas were discussed, and people shared their testimonies. So what arose was the need for a continued dialogue of putting ideas together and moving forward. One forward step would be Crystal Emery’s continued production of the movie.
Were there any interesting discussions that emerged at this event?
The solution about money (sanctions) was interesting since it was a discussion of the carrot and the stick. How do you create a policy that is more so the stick over the carrot?
What were some takeaways for you or others who attended?
For me, it was notable to see the early release of the National Academies of Science report on sexual harassment by the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine (CWSEM).
Were there any connections to current events or other projects that CGEST is doing?
Many of the people at the conference were people we have previously worked with. For example, Aprille Ericsson (a keynote speaker at a previous Women of Color STEM Conference) and Juan Gilbert, a researcher specializing in human-centered computing, were both profiled STEM career biographies. In fact, many of the people in the room knew each other, but does that mean that not enough individuals are doing this work if we can all fit into one room?
The use of a facilitated activity using a word cloud data visualization was very powerful and effective; it is a technique I would like to see used more and one that I would like for us to implement at CGEST.
Overall, the event was exciting. It was great to be in the room with individuals who are done talking about the problems and want to focus on the solutions using empirically based strategies.