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March 26, 2015

Women of Color: STEM Faculty Discussion

Currently my department is actively recruiting faculty members. We have candidates come and present their work as we listen and take notes on their interesting talks and pass them on to the department. However, I noticed something interesting. None of the faculty candidates talks that I have sat in on have been women of an underrepresented group.  I thought it was pretty interesting when I was trying to find a paper for my group to discuss at our weekly meeting that I stumbled upon a guest editorial by Marcy Towns titled Where are the Women of Color? Data on African American, Hispanic, and Native American Faculty in STEM.

I felt as though this paper fell into my lap and but I was very hesitant to bring it to our reading group in fear that I would be pinned as “angry”. After great deliberation with one of my labmates I decided to bring it up while we were talking about another faculty candidate. Of course me being as awkward as I am the conversation started out slow but then generated a great flow. In the conversation we talked about different cultures, what it means to be a majority, the benefit of having role models, and having professors and faculty you can identify with(beyond race) as a student. In this discussion I think we all learned a little about the environments we have come from and the transition to NC State’s level of diversity. The conversation even took a turn to talk about the effects of diversity in general and what that is to us. Personally, NC State was a step backwards for me as far as diversity is concerned, for others it was giant leap forward.

I can’t begin to explain how excited I am to have talked about this with my lab group. We definitely learned a lot about each other and this allows us to grow closer as researchers and to understand each other better.

During our talk I sent the paper to the group email list for people to read afterwards. I’m guessing my advisor, who was not there at the discussion, read the paper. He later sent me a blog post by Stephanie Migdalia Pi Herrera titled Institutional Barriers for Women of Color at Code Schools. The most interesting point of this blog post that resonated with me is trying to bring up the topic as an issue without sounding aggressive. I just thought it was amazing how my advisor wasn’t at the discussion but was able to send me support about the topic.
I encourage all our readers and followers to read both articles. You can claim it as a way of celebrating Women’s History Month! I guarantee you will find something valuable from there even if you are not a woman.  Consider bringing up these articles as a great way to start a conversation with your own community.  Also, see more on the topic noted as Acknowledging Diverse Experiences in STEM by @drfayonline.

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