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Fermilab and Wakandacon...

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Fermilab intern Tiffany Price connects with Dana Simone Stovall-Savage at Fermilab’s booth. Photo: Bailey Bedford

 

Topics: Afrofuturism, Black Panther, Diversity, Diversity in Science, Women in Science


In July, Fermilab joined Wakandacon in Chicago, the three-day Afro-futuristic celebration of the black experience, nerd culture and science. It was a perfect opportunity to present the public with a broader view of science and who can be a scientist.

Designed to be free from prejudice, Wakandacon included cosplay contests, video game contests, panels on topics such as writing fan fiction as an African American girl, a variety of vendors and more. It embraced the themes of the Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther” and ran with them.

At the event, members of the Fermilab community discussed the challenges of minorities working in science, promoted opportunities to engage with the lab, and shared scientific demonstrations — including liquid-nitrogen experiments and magnetic levitation. The diverse representatives of Fermilab encouraged attendees to contribute their skills and perspectives to the scientific community to build a more diverse, scientifically advanced future.

Embracing the event’s themes of diversity and advanced science, Mario Lucero, a diversity and inclusion specialist at Fermilab, moderated a panel of four other Fermilab scientists who are members of minority groups. The members recounted the obstacles that they experienced working in technical fields, how they came to find a place at Fermilab, and how they are working to improve Fermilab and the larger STEM community.

“It’s inspiring seeing so many black women and men in a field that historically has been underrepresented for us,” said Ayanna Jones, a chemistry doctoral student from the panel audience. “And for me it is inspiring because I think we all have similar stories and times where it got really hard.”

The speakers’ experiences included people assuming they were incompetent, accusing them of plagiarism without cause, speaking over them and making sexist, racist or micro-aggressive statements. The negative effects of these incidents and other aspects of their career were exacerbated by the lack of mentors to guide them in responding to the particular challenges they faced.

Fermilab scientist Jessica Esquivel shared how it felt to join Fermilab after being the second black woman to graduate from the Syracuse University physics doctoral program, where she often felt ostracized.

“It was a weight lifted off my shoulders. There was diversity,” Esquivel said. “And Fermilab as an institution really cares about equity, diversity and inclusion. And it wasn’t lip service. They value my input and value my work when it came to helping increase diversity in STEM.”

 

Fermilab promotes science and diversity at Wakandacon in Chicago
Bailey Bedford, Fermilab

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True Strength...

 

Topics: Diversity, Diversity in Science, STEM, Women in Science


"Diversity is our strength, unity is our power." Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

U.S. innovation has long drawn inspiration from a mix of scientific disciplines, academic institutions, research laboratories and industries, yet the scientific enterprise’s workforce lacks diversity of another sort, according to testimony before a House panel on May 9.

In remarks delivered to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Shirley Malcom, a senior adviser at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said the growing need for a workforce capable of delivering future innovations and meeting the world’s challenges will require “expanding the pool of talent, tapping into the vast well of women, minorities, racial and ethnic, and people with disabilities currently underrepresented in STEM,” the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The perspective delivered by Malcom, who also serves as director of AAAS’ STEM Equity Achievement or SEA Change initiative, were echoed by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, as well as by each of the four other panelists who joined Malcom in addressing the committee.

“As the rest of the country becomes more diverse, the STEM workforce has been slow to respond,” said Johnson. “In addition, I have watched with dismay for decades as women have made too few gains in the STEM workforce.”

The "STEM Opportunities Act of 2019, a bill that would require more comprehensive demographic data to be collected on recipients of federal research awards and STEM faculty at universities to help identify and reduce barriers that prevent women and underrepresented groups from entering and advancing in STEM."
The caveat: the House bill will likely stall and die in the Senate if not outright vetoed by a recalcitrant, science-phobic administration basing its next reflexive move on what the previous black president favored. It is the insistence on being the center of the story forever; the hero of the plot. It allows a growing inequality based on zip codes, city funding, cultural maturity and opportunity. Most of the aforementioned zip codes will be urban, but a lot of them rural, currently undergoing an opioid crisis and economic opportunities excavated by bad trade policies. Their being over "colored others" is a warped and sadistic feel-good measure but not a solution - similar to the sentiments expressed with a "send her back" chant at a North Carolina Klan rally Wednesday. It is a de facto redlining scheme to keep the country gerrymandered on the status quo of visual differences reinforced by propagandized compulsory education with schlock creation science; entertainment options meant to numb us and media to reinforce our biases. It is not a path forward to a mythologized lost "greatness." It is proto fascism.
 
"You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise."
Representative Ilhan Omar quoting Dr. Maya Angelou on Twitter

It is an open invitation for China to take advantage of this blatant racism and ignorance, powering ahead of us to become the world's dominate superpower. Once our lofty perch among nations is lost, we will likely not recover it. We will be a byword, a proverb and in the inimitable words of our current juvenile chief executive "they are [and will likely be] laughing at us"; that throwaway line against his ardent foe that made him sad at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, prophetically projection.

 

Diverse STEM Workforce Needed to Preserve U.S. Competitiveness, Anne Q. Hoy
Office of Public Programs SEA Change
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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