Thursday, January 13, 2022

Crosspost: Advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion: a how-to guide

Written By Dr. Rowan M. Thomson, Canada Research Chair, physics professor, and assistant dean at Carleton University for Physics Today
Dr. Thomson's vision for the future of physics as a field that includes, accommodates, and values everyone, regardless of the gender identity, race, or disability status. Credit: Physics Today

Looking around the lunchroom on my first day at my first job in physics—as a summer student in a Canadian national laboratory—I was shocked to see that almost all the scientists present were white men! I loved that job and was thrilled to be paid to do physics, but I was disappointed in the lack of diversity at the lab. I expected that things would get better as I continued in my career. Surely, I thought, the diversity of the general population would begin to be reflected in physics. But 20 years later, my optimistic expectation has proven naive. The lack of diversity in physics is still striking. Moreover, the issues in the field go beyond representation. Insidious inequities, pernicious discrimination, and systemic barriers continue to prevent the inclusion of everyone in physics.

The numbers confirm that many groups are underrepresented in physics: Data from a recent NSF report demonstrate that among recent PhDs awarded in physics, Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous people, women, and individuals with disabilities are underrepresented by factors of about two to five.1 The representation of individuals in physics identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and additional identities (LGBTQIA+) has received less attention, but those groups are certainly underrepresented too.2,3 And representation gaps seem set to persist for a long time. To take just one example, currently only 13% of senior authors of articles in physics are women. That number is rising by only 0.1% per year—at that rate, it will take 258 years to come within 5% of gender parity!4
What factors lead to those disparities in representation? What are the challenges faced by equity-deserving groups? Why should physicists be motivated to effect change? What can physicists do to help the field improve? This article is a call to action for all physicists to work together on concrete and sustained efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion through awareness, collaboration, and engagement.

Check out the rest of the article to learn more about Dr. Thomson's inspired plan for helping physicists at every career level make the field of physics more inclusive:

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