How are Societies Managing their DEI Initiatives (Fireside Chat, March 2022)
How are Societies Managing their DEI Initiatives (Fireside Chat, March 2022)
https://asa1cadmoremedia.blob.core.windows.net/asset-c4a03386-f249-448a-9218-ddac700ace52/Society Street March 2022.mp4
DANA COMPTON: Hello. Welcome, everyone, to our first Society Street event of 2022. This is really exciting. I'm Dana Compton, I'm managing director and publisher at the American Society of Civil Engineers. But today, I have the privilege of joining this event as a member of the 2022 Society Street Program Committee. So thanks to all of you for joining us. I know this is going to be a great lively discussion.
DANA COMPTON: And to that end, I just want to say please consider joining our live Zoom chat that'll happen immediately at the end of this session. But in the meantime, please don't hesitate to put comments in the chat right here during the discussion. This really is intended to be interactive, and we want to hear what you have to say as well. And so I'm especially excited that I've had the honor of organizing this particular panel speaking about what societies are doing or can do to advance their diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility goals.
DANA COMPTON: So this is a topic that's uber relevant, not only for academic and professional societies but in society at large. It's something I'm particularly, personally, and professionally passionate about, if that's enough P's for everybody. And I just can't tell you how thankful I am to the three of you, these wonderful women leaders, who agreed to join me today.
DANA COMPTON: So thank you so much, and thank you, everyone, for joining the discussion. So let's just dive in and get started. I'll ask everybody to introduce themselves, give a little bit of background. Raj, do you want to kick us off?
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: Sure. Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. And Happy Women's History Month. It's March, and it's so wonderful to do this in this particular month. And I'm really excited to be joined by Nicola and Susan and Dana. This is really, really awesome. Thank you for putting this together.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: So I am Raj Mukhopadhyay. I am the vice president of the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect here at the American Chemical Society. The American Chemical Society is one of the world's largest professional organizations that serve scientists. We are here to advance our mission and vision, which is to use the transformative power of chemistry to address global challenges and to make the world and the planet a better place to live.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: So the Office of DEIR at the ACS came into being literally a year ago. Today is March 4, 2022. This came into being on March 4, 2021. And it came on the heels of an introduction of a new goal in our strategic plan, which is goal 5 which is to embrace and advance inclusion in chemistry. | just still want to be clear that the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility was nothing new to ACS.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: We've had many different groups of stakeholders working towards issues around DEI for ages. In fact, our Women Chemists Committee is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year. So the work of inclusivity, belonging, has been going on for a while, but what changed was to make it front and central at ACS. And we made it so that it now becomes the work of everyone, and not just the work of some groups.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: We want now everybody to add their elbow grease to this. And so we established the Office of DEIR to be like the central hub to push forward towards, getting towards this goal and what does success look like when we get to this goal of making sure that everybody has a sense of belonging in doing the best science they possibly can. I came into this role-- I am a scientist, I trained as a biochemist.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: And then I went into science journalism. And I've had a long, long career in being a storyteller, of being a communicator, of identifying challenges and identifying the unheard voices. And so I bring that kind of lens to this work. Because what are the challenges that we are we're looking at? What are the practical ways to address them? And then let's also pause and make sure we're hearing all voices who isn't speaking up and how do we bring those voices to light because I think a lot of the work around DEI can end up being lip service.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: How do you step away from lip service and make sure that you're really addressing the needs? And that's when it's the listening to those voices really matters. So I'll stop there. And maybe I'll pass it on to Susan, who's next on my screen.
SUSAN SPILKA: Thank you, Raj. So much of what you say resonates. Thank you, all for-- Dana for inviting me and to talk with Raj and Nicola and yourself. I have had a long career in communications. I'm at the end of my career. Not yet. I can't quite give it up. But I'm looking towards that.
SUSAN SPILKA: But my career has included 20 years of leading internal and external communications at Wiley and some stints at CHORUS, Knowledge Unlatched, and TBI Communications. And now I'm consulting, primarily to do with DEIA. And in 2018, I, with two former colleagues-- two colleagues, Simone Taylor and Jeri Wachter-- we decided that there was a lack of data documenting the state of our industry.
SUSAN SPILKA: And I don't mean down the research pipeline, I mean the scholarly communications industry. So we launched the Workplace Equity Survey, and we felt that we needed to hear unheard voices of the people who were the industry. So we reached out with the help of 17 industry organizations and companies to individuals across the world, and we had with a survey that was very long and asked a lot of questions and collected data from 1,200 people.
SUSAN SPILKA: And we wrote up a paper that was published in Learned Publishing and presented it on the conference circuit, and found out a lot of things that validated what we already knew-- key findings of that organizations are not walking the talk, that people have blindness to the challenges of others, which I think is really key, that inline managers have more to do with individual experiences of inclusion than company policies-- not to diminish what company policies are-- that awareness really can make a difference in debunking biases, and that success will come when we change individual minds and organizational policies and structures.
SUSAN SPILKA: And since then I've been involved in the Scholarly Communications Institute. I was part of the team that began to work on the anti-racist toolkits. And there are two of them now, and I'll talk about them later. And I've been working with companies ever since on communications, which I think is a really key component of equity.
SUSAN SPILKA: Someone once said to me, until people are sick of hearing a message, you haven't gotten through. So anyway, Nicola? Nicola, I'll pass the hat over to you.
NICOLA NUGENT: Thanks Susan. And thanks also to Dana and all of the organizers for inviting me to speak today. I'm really honored to be on this panel alongside Raj, Susan, and Dana as well. My role, I'm the publishing manager, Quality and Ethics at Royal Society of Chemistry. And I have around 16 or so years experience in STEM publishing, mainly in editorial type roles, handling manuscripts, and dealing with our peer review and peer review operations.
NICOLA NUGENT: And more recently in the past couple of years, my role has evolved where I'm the strategic lead for peer review across our journals. And within that, I have specific responsibility for improving inclusion and diversity in our publishing processes. And if I just give you a bit of an introduction to the Royal Society of Chemistry, so we're a learned society and professional body, obviously, and a publisher as well.
NICOLA NUGENT: And our purpose is to help the chemical science community make the world a better place. And our activities supporting that goal are really wide-ranging, covering outreach, education, policy, events, all those sorts of things. And obviously, we publish journals as well, so we publish 48 journals across the breadth of the chemical sciences. And at the Royal Society of Chemistry, we believe chemistry should be for everyone.
NICOLA NUGENT: And we have a really impressive and fantastic inclusion and diversity team working to make that a reality. And one of the really important things that that team has put in place recently is our inclusion and diversity strategy, which goes across the organization and sets out our vision for improving inclusion and diversity, and making sure that, as I said, that reality of chemistry being for everyone comes true.
NICOLA NUGENT: In terms of my role, I work very closely with our inclusion and diversity team, focusing on inclusion and diversity in publishing. And one of the initiatives I've been leading on-- and I'm sure I'll get to say more about a bit later-- is an initiative called the Joint Commitment for Action on Inclusion and Diversity in Publishing. And that was initiated by Royal Society of Chemistry in mid-2020, and it's now a collaboration of over 52-- over 50 I should say-- publishing organizations who are working together.
NICOLA NUGENT: We've set out some public commitments that we're working together on to really try and improve inclusion and diversity and publishing in publishing together. And I think that's something that I've really learned over the past couple of years is that to make a difference, we need to work together and set aside what may have been previously competitive differences and work together to collaborate and accelerate progress and move things together.
NICOLA NUGENT: And by doing so, we can move things together more quickly. So yeah, I'll leave it there, and pass it back to you, Dana.
DANA COMPTON: Thanks so much. That's great. You are all so impressive, and you are all doing huge things in the DEIA space. So I think one of the first questions that I would ask is, that can be really overwhelming. And I think for some societies, we hear about these big initiatives going on and programs and offices of diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect.
DANA COMPTON: But where can we begin? Have you seen anything that is happening that might be a step in? Raj, I think you mentioned this can also often be lip service. What are some get started actions that might be low-hanging fruit that a society could take that are maybe a lighter, less lift, lower risk but lead to more action down the road. Any thoughts on that from anybody or shall I pick on someone?
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: I could just start by sharing something. I really sincerely meant the listening. So one thing that did happen, after the killing of George Floyd, our executive leadership team had listening sessions with staff. And hearing how we-- this was unprecedented times, and it was difficult times. And they sat down and they listened to everyone. And very quickly it became obvious that one thing we were lacking were employee resource groups, and that's a very easy thing for us to do.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: And so that's one of the things we started to do is pulling together employee resource groups, setting them up, letting employees form safe spaces for themselves and their allies so they can talk about how is it that their identities impacts the way they come into the workplace, and what are some of the things that we can do to change the workplace so that they can show up. So that was some of the tactical things that just from listening and hearing what the concerns are you know what then you can do specifically to address things.
DANA COMPTON: I love that. Go for it, Susan.
SUSAN SPILKA: Add to that-- that was probably the first thing I was going to say, too. But what I would add to it is that sometimes employees don't feel free to share their real feelings in an organization because they feel that even if it's all in a good spirit, it may come to haunt them. So I think that one thing we found with the Workplace Equity Survey, which had over 800 free form comments, is it's a good idea to do some active listening perhaps with a neutral third party so you can get a sense of what's really being felt. Not that you don't have real feelings shared in resource groups, but you may get a deeper dive into it.
SUSAN SPILKA: To that, I would also add that there's no shame in copying what others are doing. I get my best ideas from other places. I've always said corporate communications is creative plagiarism. Name change policies, everyone's doing them. They're great. They help not only people who are going through gender reassignment, but they help women who've been struggling for-- I know I have, for the past 20 years, with my married name and my original name.
SUSAN SPILKA: Anyway, so that's an idea. And the third thing is that there are a myriad of resources out there. The toolkits, the anti-racist toolkits. So just start something, and don't bring yourself too thin. One step at a time, and we'll get there.
NICOLA NUGENT: Yeah, I just really echo what you've both said. I mean, I think that listening piece is so important. And I think that one of the first things I was going to suggest was around having the evidence and the data. So we try to make sure that our inclusion and diversity activities are driven by data and evidence. And part of that data and evidence will be what you find out in those listening exercises or it may be in more quantitative data gathering.
NICOLA NUGENT: But having the data and evidence there is really important in terms of defining the problem, so what is it that you're trying to fix. And there will be many, many things that need to be fixed. And so as you hinted at, Dana, that can feel overwhelming. But just to reflect what Susan said, prioritize something that you can act on, and get started. Work on defining what that problem is and what are the practical steps that you can take to start making a difference.
NICOLA NUGENT: And again, echoing I think something that Susan said about working with others or copying others, collaboration is your friend. Work with other societies, other organizations. Learn from what others are doing. You're not alone in this. People will be willing to share their experiences of how they solve particular issues or activities that they're embarking on, so.
NICOLA NUGENT: Yeah, I would just really emphasize that point that you're not alone, and you probably can't do it alone. So seek partners and collaborators to work with and help you move things forward.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: And another thing with the overwhelming part, sometimes when there's a lot coming, it helps to step back and think, is there a common root cause for some of these things? Can I get to the root cause of this, and maybe address three or four of these things in one shot? But like I'm thinking about is nominations for awards. Let's be honest-- it feels like it's the same five people getting all the awards.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: Well, what's happening there is, well, because other people are not getting into the nominations process. And nominations for awards then feeds into nominations for leadership roles or getting into succession planning, and things like that. So how do you get to the root cause of why do we always have the same five names being circulated, and how do we break that rinse and repeat cycle and infuse it with more people?
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: And that's a common cause that affects so many different things.
DANA COMPTON: Yeah, I think that's a great point. And I think when it comes down to leadership positions, they're there very much as it's really easy to go to the people that you already know who are already part of your network, right. And breaking that cycle, I think that requires a buy-in from the volunteer leadership, and therefore the member base, right. We need to get them to think differently about how they populate their committees, how they are offering open calls for nominations or positions rather than maybe earmarking people.
DANA COMPTON: I think it may take a little more effort to do things that way, right. So I guess my question on that would be, how do you go about getting buy-in from a membership and volunteer leadership? From my experience at ASCE, we have great, I'm very proud of our DEI efforts. And we have a MOSAIC committee, which is focused on DEI. I think it's a strategic priority for ASCE, represented in our strategic plan.
DANA COMPTON: And so those who maybe disagree with the emphasis we place on DEI are few, but can be vocal. So we do absolutely hear, what does this have to do with civil engineering? How is this tied to our mission as an organization? Any thoughts on combating that? Go for it.
SUSAN SPILKA: There was some research that Emerald Publishing did. They've done a lot of interesting research on DEI. And they surveyed academics around the world, and they found that a chunk-- I think they said 13%-- perceived no benefit from inclusivity, that they feel that it could lead to mediocrity. And so I think that there's education that needs to go on as a first step, and what is termed the work of understanding bias and how it manifests in each of us.
SUSAN SPILKA: And it's a self-awareness process that can be helped through organizations to understand how you go to a set place in your decision-making that has bias embedded. And I think back to when I was hiring. I would always hire the same person in a different body for years and years and years. And yes, they would work out.
SUSAN SPILKA: But it only brought a certain perspective to my team. And when I broke that mold, one of my direct reports said, you know, you're always hiring the same person. It really opened up our thinking. And I think that it's a process of that we all have to go through, and that as organizations we can help our community to gain that awareness about how we think differently.
NICOLA NUGENT: Yeah, I would just add. I mean, from my perspective, a lot of what you were saying, Dana, about your organization really signs similar to how things are at Royal Society of Chemistry. And I'm sure that's true of others as well, where there's buy-in, right, from senior leaders in our organization throughout. And it's part of our organizational strategy to focus on it. It's an organization strategic priority to improve inclusion and diversity, and so on.
NICOLA NUGENT: So having that within our organization and setting that out as a strategic priority without that, you're not going to get anywhere. That's a really important foundational step in having that leadership buy-in. And having the courage of your convictions, once you've set out your sort of principles and those goals that you want to achieve. When you are coming up against resistance, having the courage of your convictions to say, this is the right thing to do, we have the data and evidence that show there's an issue here, these are the ways that we're going to address it, obviously we're willing to listen, and we want to hear different points of view.
NICOLA NUGENT: We're happy to be challenged. But because our activities are based on data and evidence, we can come back and say, here's why, here's the reason we're doing this, and here's the evidence that shows that it's necessary. And the evidence shows that this will work. And yeah, so I'm probably going to say data and evidence a lot throughout this conversation. [LAUGHTER] But that's really the foundational for me is having-- especially working in the scientific community as well, a lot of thinking and decision making.
NICOLA NUGENT: There's an expectation that it's based, of course, on data and evidence. And so that's what we'd do.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: I just want to tie everything we said. Because we've talked about how it has to be from the top-- like our board of directors, our senior leadership have to set the strategic goal, and then down to individual behavior changes. And I loved Susan's example about hiring. I mean, I'll give my personal example. Until I got this role-- so now I'm on the executive leadership team, but until I got this role, I was a middle manager. And I jump up several layers on the management ladder, and I get an executive coach.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: And the first few days, I'm just sweating. I'm like, I need have executive presence. And my coach is like, what do you mean by that?
DANA COMPTON: [LAUGHS]
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: And I try to articulate it. And she just looks at me, and she's like, that's an old white man. No matter how much you try, you will never be an old white man. And so it was that moment where I'm like, oh my God, I have to break my own thinking of what a leader looks like. And the shift has to happen from the individual to each of us, and it's uncomfortable. And then that has to just also go all the way up and saying, all right, we've set the strategic goal, we all got our hands in here.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: Let's now all shift in our thinking. And it's very much the day to day. It's very much how we just get through our day that we need to start thinking about, am I perpetuating something that really doesn't serve?
DANA COMPTON: I love that. That's an excellent. I've certainly had that since I've been on the ASCE SLT. You feel like the very, very different person in the room. And I do think it's hard to break that way of thinking. I love that you brought that up. A couple of things to, a couple of times we've mentioned, it's fine to copy what others are doing, and Nicola, you talked about being in a community that is making advances and working on similar efforts.
DANA COMPTON: And I do want to bring it back around to the Joint Commitment a little bit. And I think it's really helpful. ASCE is a signatory to the Joint Commitment. And I think it's always been very helpful when we're talking about, yes, this is the data, these are the problems that we're working to solve-- and we're not the only ones. Can you speak a little bit to how that may play into being able to speak to the importance and really setting a culture of thinking about DEI as a priority?
NICOLA NUGENT: Yeah. So I mean, the Joint Commitment initiative really stemmed from work we were doing in early 2020. With our publishing teams, we were setting out steps we were taking to try and improve and reduce bias in our own publishing processes. And we'd set out our framework for action on inclusion and diversity in scholarly publishing, which was a Royal Society of Chemistry focused framework for how we were, what action we were taking.
NICOLA NUGENT: And it was in early 2020, and around that time, as Raj already mentioned, there was the murder of George Floyd. There's a resurgence of Black Lives Matter movement. And one of the things we wanted to do was to really reach out to other organizations and say, hey, look, this is what we're doing, maybe it's useful to you. And you might want to, as Susan said, steal some of our ideas.
NICOLA NUGENT: And so we shared this framework for action that we had created with some other publishers. We convened a workshop and got together with, I think it was around 10 or 12 publishers. And in that workshop, as well as sharing our framework. And what we were doing, we had a structured discussion session where we spoke about what are the things that we can do together, what can we collaborate on to move things forward more quickly.
NICOLA NUGENT: And it was just so heartening and heartwarming to see the people in that room and their enthusiasm, their willingness to share and willingness to work together on particular areas. And so what we did was we defined four particular areas where we felt that, as publishers, we could work together and hopefully make a difference more quickly. And so we set those out as commitments that we've made.
NICOLA NUGENT: And that's where the Joint Commitment idea comes from. And we've published that as a statement on our website. But it's much more than just a statement of a commitment. We work together. We have been, since, I think it's around June 2020, we've been meeting as a working group. There's representatives from each publishing organization that meet about three times per year as a large group. There are a lot of us now with 50 odd publishers.
NICOLA NUGENT: And we have subgroups as well taking forward particular areas of action under each of those commitments that we've made. And I think speaking to your question, Dana, what that really does, as you said it helps people in the different organizations understand what the challenges that others are facing, where we have shared challenges, and therefore where we can focus our efforts to improve things.
NICOLA NUGENT: And really, as well, the members of the joint commitment are so varied in terms of the scale and the types of organizations. We have very small society members. We have huge commercial publishers. And so one of the real significant benefits is those bigger publishers who have more resources to put into this are sharing their knowledge and their work and their experience with these smaller organizations who don't have the same resources.
NICOLA NUGENT: And so as well as bringing that huge diverse group of people together and bringing in all those different ideas, we're sharing the resources amongst such a varied group of publishers. And it means those smaller organizations, who maybe don't have those same level of resources to put into this, can take the learning from that group and go to their leadership or whichever committees or boards that they need to convince to take action and say, look, this group over here, they're doing this, they're doing that, they're sharing this information.
NICOLA NUGENT: And they can learn from that and take that forward. And that can support them in getting approval for different actions that they need to take. So it's just been, as I said that, since the start it's just been so refreshing to have publishers just willing to work together, share knowledge, share learning, and to take action. We made these commitments. We've said this is what we're going to do.
NICOLA NUGENT: And we are really working on delivering on those commitments. So yeah, it's a fantastic collaboration to be part of. Definitely.
SUSAN SPILKA: There's a fascinating article in Nature this week about how the Joint Commitment and others have grappled with how you classify ethnicity and race. And that's an issue we really chewed on with the Workplace Equity Survey, and I've talked with Holly Brzezinski about it and others. And it's just really, I mean, it seems like a minor-- it's naming something.
SUSAN SPILKA: But it's really, really vital because there are so many geographic and cultural differences in that. And it's just an example of what you were just talking about, Nicola.
NICOLA NUGENT: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, it speaks to two things we've been talking about one is gathering the data and evidence. So you need to understand, if you want to make any difference in terms of inclusion diversity in our publishing process, we need to understand who's involved. Who are our authors? Who are our reviewers?
NICOLA NUGENT: Who are our editors? And what are their demographics? So if you're not collecting that data, we can't begin to define the problem, as I said earlier. And so starting to think about how to collect demographic data, it might seem simple. You think, OK, well, National Census they do that all the time, let's use what they use. And then you discover that, OK, the racial categories for the UK National Census are absolutely meaningless when you try to apply that to the United States or China or other parts of the world.
NICOLA NUGENT: And so it turns out, for race and ethnicity in particular, there isn't a universal global set of categories that you can go and pick off the shelf and use. Certainly not one that's practical in the context of collecting data on authors, reviewers, and editors, which is the context that we were thinking of. And so one of the subgroups that I mentioned of our Joint Commitment group are looking at these data collection questions.
NICOLA NUGENT: And they've put in a huge amount of work-- spearheaded, I should say, by Holly Krzesinski at Elsevier but with contributions from many other publishers as well-- have spearheaded this effort to set out to put together this global universal schema for the collection of race and ethnicity data, which is we're finalizing at the moment. Hopefully in March, we'll be getting final endorsement for that from the group and making that public.
NICOLA NUGENT: But it required a huge amount of work and effort. Elsevier engaged an external subject matter expert professor-- Morning at New York University. And what we've come up with-- I don't know if it's going to surprise some people, but hopefully, what we're trying to do is get a set of categories that really resonate with people around the globe so that they are willing to share their race and ethnicity information, and in a way that's practical for us, for the level of granularity that's useful and that we can act on.
NICOLA NUGENT: So it isn't a huge endless list of every type of possible ethnic characterization you could think of because that's not data we can act on, and so there's no point collecting it. And in fact, it's against data protection regulations when someone's collected and that you're not going to act on. So it's quite a simplified set of categories, but we think it's going to work in that global context of especially publishing, thinking about authors, reviewers, editors.
NICOLA NUGENT: And the testing that was led by Elsevier shows that the majority of people who, when we tested this question, the majority of people who filled it in felt that they were represented. And more than half of those who were asked said that they would be comfortable sharing that information in their role as an author, reviewer, or editor. I think we want to see that proportion of people who are comfortable increase, and we'll work to, and a really important piece of this is, communicating to our publishing communities about why we're collecting this data and what we're going to do with it, and giving them the confidence that they can share it with us and we'll treat it with the due respect and privacy and use it in the right way.
NICOLA NUGENT: So there's a lot of communication there to be done. But just bringing back to that collaboration piece, I can't see how this would have happened without this Joint Commitment group in place. Each publisher was grappling with the same problem and trying to work at it from different angles and using all these different categories. And without this Joint Commitment initiative, well, it certainly would have taken a lot longer for us to get to work to where we are now in terms of, hopefully very soon, having a useful, universal way of collecting this data, which means that when publishers-- assuming publishers do adopt this over time-- when that happens, data between publishers, between journals, will be comparable.
NICOLA NUGENT: Data sets will be much more meaningful. So yeah, as I say, without that collaboration we wouldn't be anywhere near making the progress that we are. So yeah, just really impressed with how all the publishers have been willing to share.
DANA COMPTON: That's great. That's fantastic. Thanks for sharing all that. That was wonderful. Raj, anything from your perspective organizationally? So thinking about you're really looking across all of ACS and thinking about DEI as a mindset at ACS. Has that been-- where have the challenges been, I guess, I should say?
DANA COMPTON: Not, has that been challenging? [LAUGHS]
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: No. I was loving this conversation on data because this is something that we are thinking about. Of course on the publication side, they've got a jumpstart because this is what's happening in scholarly publishing to collect data. But on the membership side, how do you, when do you collect, what do you collect, what do you need to collect is something that we are grappling with.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: What do we need to know about our members so a, we can double check that we are serving the community, and b, that we are signaling that we welcome everyone. And I think I need to be very clear when I talk about demographics and diversity at ACS. In our view, diversity comes in many forms. Sure, race, gender, ethnicity-- all these matter. But we talk about socioeconomic factors, educational attainment, cognitive and physical abilities.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: So when we talk about diversity in all its shapes and forms, we have to be very intentional about what questions we ask to make sure we can make the decisions that we need to make. So what data do we need to make certain decisions, and how do we ask that in a way that is respectful and assures people that were doing it so that we do better and do good? I don't know if we have the answers yet. We're still talking about it, thinking about it.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: I think it's going to be moving goalposts. We may start somewhere, and as time goes on, the goalposts change for that. But that's something that we spend a lot of time. To the point that I actually ended up putting-- we have an embedded data person on my team now because that's how important we think this is going to be moving forward, and move away from that lip service that I hearken to earlier.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: Because that's our biggest fear-- that we want to make sure that we make meaningful change.
DANA COMPTON: I have so many questions, and I'm cognizant of time. But how do we know if we're making progress? Is this as simple as looking at data and seeing if we're heading in the right direction? Or is there more to that? How do we gauge our success here? Any thoughts?
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: It's not tokenism. It is not tokenism. It's not counting the heads you have in the room.
DANA COMPTON: Right.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: It is, do people have a sense of belonging and inclusivity and psychological safety to do their very best? How do you measure that?
SUSAN SPILKA: I think that's where the finding ways to communicate in a safe space and listening to what your community says. And one thing about our industry is that it's like dominoes. Because what we do affects the research pipeline would reflect society. So if we are getting more comfort and diversity in our organizations, which is bringing more of it into who's published and who's cited, and then how that affects social change, that becomes clear to each of us.
SUSAN SPILKA: Anyway.
NICOLA NUGENT: Yeah.
DANA COMPTON: So we're seeing that-- sorry, go ahead, Nicola.
NICOLA NUGENT: I was just going to echo that. And I think what Raj said around that sense of belonging is really it, but not something that you can necessarily measure with just saying who's in the room or who's at the table. And that really does involve listening to people about is that sense of belonging changing over time. But yeah, it's not something that you can necessarily-- although the data is important. We do need to move those needles.
NICOLA NUGENT: But it's not certainly not the be-all and end-all.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: It's a story you end up hearing. And then I quote Brené Brown here. "Stories are data with soul." And so we want to get to that point where the stories are going to tell us that we did it.
DANA COMPTON: That's so great. So a theme that I've picked up on here. Nicola, earlier you would use the term courage in saying having the courage of your convictions and standing up for knowing this is the right thing. We've talked about listening and having a safe space, and some mechanisms for that, like a neutral third party being in the room and having a sense of no fear of retribution in stating your opinions and your experiences, telling your story.
DANA COMPTON: I think there's a lot of fear, though, that goes around this work at times. And I think one of those things is, what if we do something wrong? What if we screw up? How badly could that reflect on us as an organization, on me as a person? Am I at risk and am I putting my organization at risk? How do we build our confidence?
DANA COMPTON: What would you do if you made a small mistake or a big mistake? Do we have mitigation plans for like, Oh, I said something terrible. Now what? I think there is a lot of work to be done in making people feel safe. Any thoughts? Or have you been through this before? Raj, you're nodding.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: I don't even know where to begin with that. The courage is it's work. And I think that's where it is. It's work. It's going to take work. It's not just going to miraculously appear. And it takes a lot of courage to speak up, point it out. Even when saying, I think the same frickin' five people I've been getting all the awards out there, how do we stop that?
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: It takes courage to be that one. But I believe it is better to be courageous and make a mistake than not be courageous and play it safe.
SUSAN SPILKA: I think we learn from our mistakes, and that's the best way to learn. I know in my personal journey, I have a very direct way of speaking and I have my own views. And I have gotten myself in a lot of trouble with some tough pushback for what was perceived as microaggressions. And I didn't mean them that way, and I didn't feel that way. But that's how they were perceived. And people perceive other people's intentions and their motivations differently than they may be met.
SUSAN SPILKA: And I think that mistakes have to be OK if there's evidence that it's part of the journey, and that it's a learning process. I think that there can be people who are just going to be defiant and think that this is-- they're not going to buy into it. But they're part of the community, and we have to figure out a way to deal with them.
SUSAN SPILKA: And this goes back to Raj's title of her office. The last word is respect. And I think that is the absolute key to all of this, is that we all treat each other with respect, that no one has the right to be abusive to anyone else. But everyone has the right to call people out, if done respectfully.
DANA COMPTON: Oh, absolutely.
NICOLA NUGENT: Yeah, I would agree. And speaking to, I think Raj mentioned around creating those safe spaces. Just one small example of a positive step we've taken at Royal Society of Chemistry is we held, our Inclusion and Diversity team held an online session with staff where it was talking about the language we use around disability, and opening up those conversations, and trying to explain why we use certain terms, how it makes disabled people feel when we use the wrong terms, and just really being open about the conversation.
NICOLA NUGENT: They did a little poll at the beginning about how people were feeling. A lot of people were feeling, nervous, uncomfortable, not sure what language to use. And that's OK. Let's explore that. Let's talk about what are the terms that we should use or avoid using, all those sorts of things, and just really trying to educate people.
NICOLA NUGENT: And I think, Susan, speaking to your point, if you're going to join that kind of webinar, you're open to learning. So that's a good place to be. And we're probably not going to get some of those people who, for them, they're not interested. That's fine. They're not going to join this webinar. We'll have to tackle that in a different way.
NICOLA NUGENT: But if you create those spaces where people come, keen to learn and to improve and do better, and have the experts in the room to provide some of that insight, you know that that can be a really powerful learning experience. And I know personally from that one little session that we held, I learned a huge amount about experiences of disabled people in the chemistry community.
NICOLA NUGENT: So it's those kind of things can be extremely valuable. But obviously, they tend to be for people who are willing to learn and already keen to engage.
DANA COMPTON: Yeah
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: I mean, Nicola, just two or three days ago, we were having a staff information session on a belonging and inclusivity survey we were doing. And I definitely think it's so important for us, those of us in this space doing this kind of work, to model that behavior of curiosity and courage. Because if you don't do it yourself and show it, how, why would anybody else do it? So we had anonymous comments happening, and somebody was like, well, are you tracking in this belonging and inclusivity survey how people who are neurodiverse track?
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: And that question caught me off guard because I was like, I actually don't know the definition of neurodiversity. Like what are we talking about here? And I had to come up. I said that, and I sat there for a minute. I was, like, I just have to come out and say it. Because the question was sitting, and everybody could see it, sitting in the Q&A. [LAUGHTER] And I was just like, I actually don't know what the definition is.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: I don't know if my definition is the same as your definition. So let's talk, and let's learn. And maybe as an organization, we'll come up with a definition that we all agree to, and we'll start tracking that. And so I think it's important for us to say what we don't know and say, thank you for sharing. We don't know what the answer is right now, but we'll work on it.
DANA COMPTON: I love that In
SUSAN SPILKA: Your point about curiosity, both of you have raised that. And I think one of the great things about workplaces is that it brings us into contact with very diverse groups of people that we might not otherwise meet in our personal lives. Our personal lives tend to be family and friends who are like us. And I became very aware of this, planning my daughter's wedding and looking at the crowd and saying, it's so homogeneous, it's almost embarrassing.
SUSAN SPILKA: But at work, you meet people from different ethnicities, different geographies. Neurodiversity can mean introvert, extrovert. It can mean cognitive processing issues. And it's a chance to learn about other people and really expand our horizons, and then integrate that back into our work, which in our field is really essential to do.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: So when people do say, why as scientists do we care about diversity, equity, and inclusion? I'm like, because aren't you curious about what happens when you give somebody who has not had a chance to tackle this problem tackle the problem? Maybe they'll solve it because they are looking at it a different way. They have a different perspective. Let's just see what happens.
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: And I think there's one thing we have not talked about, and that's power dynamics. Because people think that if I give another person a chance, I'm going to lose my spot here. I don't think-- I think science is one of those rare places where it's literally the more, the merrier.
DANA COMPTON: Yeah.
SUSAN SPILKA: It's a zero-sum game.
DANA COMPTON: Right. Right. Getting away from, I guess, that scarcity mindset, right. That there's only so much credit and power to go around. It's a great point, and it raises so many other things that I'd love to talk about to your point, Susan, about does diversity or inclusion for the sake of advancing DEI, does it risk bringing down the quality of a group? And I think many of us would-- or all of us-- and many would argue otherwise that this will increase creativity based on different perspectives and lead to innovation.
DANA COMPTON: And I want to talk with you all about this for another hour, but I'm cognizant of the fact that everybody has other things that they need to get on to. So I'm going to probably wrap us here and leave us with something to think about for the Zoom chat that's going to happen right after this. Because you're also inspiring to me, and I would really love to hear a little bit more about what is inspiring you and maybe what your aspirational goal is for your organization or your personal work.
DANA COMPTON: So maybe we can touch a little bit on that in the Zoom chat. I want to thank everybody again for joining us and listening today for your questions and most especially for continuing this conversation with us. The Zoom link should be shared here. And thank you again, Raj, Susan, Nicola. It's been an absolute pleasure talking with all of you. This has just been a great conversation, and I really appreciate your time.
DANA COMPTON: Thank you so much.
NICOLA NUGENT: Thank you
RAJ MUKHOPADHYAY: Thank you.
SUSAN SPILKA: Thank you.