On improving diversity and what that feels like

Last week I wrote that a news outlet reported that Hans Clevers had said that Dutch women don't want to work hard. According to Hans Clevers, who came to my blog to reply, he hadn't actually said that.

Seeing the article on a Dutch news website, writing my post here and the discussion that followed left me feeling drained. I feel so frustrated that while I and so many others with me point out how this attitude of saying "I have done some things and there is nothing we can do to further increase diversity" is unhelpful and harmful, it does not seem to change the speed at which diversity increases. Outside of this blog, the LNVH ("Landelijk Netwerk Vrouwelijke Hoogleraren"; the Dutch society for Women full professors) wrote a letter to a large Dutch newspaper. And Athena's Angels (an initiative of 4 female full professors) wrote a reply in the same news paper today. But otherwise nothing happened. What could have been an opportunity to start a discussion on how to improve diversity in (Dutch) academic science, and increase the retention of women and minorities in the academic pipeline, ended in silence, at least as far as I can see.

I want to look into scientific literature on methods to increase diversity in STEM (or elsewhere) to write a post with suggestions on what to do and what works, but haven't had the time to do so. If you have links/papers to share with me, please do so in the comments or on twitter.

And in the meantime, I want to acknowledge the energy it takes to address these issues and take a deep bow for those of us who do this on a daily basis. I realize the privilege of writing here under a pseudonym and being able to go to work at a place with great emphasis on diversity. As Sara Ahmed wrote in her blog post titled "Feeling Depleted : "I think of social privilege as an energy saving device: less effort is required to pass through." So for those who still believe women aren't working hard: this is also where their energy goes: into the invisible void of challenging the status quo.


2 responses so far

  • eeke says:

    I don't have a link for you. I do my small part by telling organizers (of a seminar series in my department, for example) that there wasn't enough balance among the invited speakers (ie they were all white guys). Or become an organizer myself and loudly voice an opinion when not enough women are being invited or that the selected invitees severely lack diversity. No one challenges me on this, probably because they know that they'll come across as douchebags if they do. It seems like a small thing, but in academia, we know that part of promotion involves being an invited speaker and having national/international recognition. I probably don't need to add here that we all know it's wrong-headed to extend this privilege to only one demographic.

  • Marlene Zuk says:

    Check out this website for lots of cool ideas about gender equity in academia:


    The various ADVANCE programs through NSF also have lots and lots of information on how to improve diversity without feeling like you have to reinvent the wheel.

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