Equity and Inclusion Update: The Presidential Membership Initiative
The GSA Equity and Inclusion Committee shares progress and plans for the future.
In June of this year, in response to the widespread calls for action on racism that were sparked by the murder of George Floyd, GSA publicly committed to the work of dismantling racism in science, beginning from within our own Society.
Now, four months on, as the Equity and Inclusion Committee of the GSA, we offer you an update on GSA’s progress and the plans we’re putting in place to build an equitable and inclusive community of scientists.
The composition of GSA membership does not fully reflect the diversity of scientists who use genetics. What’s more, the scientific enterprise as a whole has failed to make the field a space that welcomes, supports, and respects scientists from underrepresented communities—especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). While we can’t undo decades of disenfranchisement overnight, one first step we can take is to reach out to early career scientists from underrepresented backgrounds and invite them to be a part of the Society, sponsored by us.
To this end, we are thrilled to announce the Presidential Membership Initiative. This program aims to support the career development of junior scientists from historically excluded populations by offering them a year of free membership—and the associated benefits—and to take action to reverse a history of exclusion by cultivating the next generation of scientist-leaders. This program emerged from a recommendation our committee made to the GSA Board of Directors and President Denise Montell in late August 2020.
Each new member recruited through this mechanism will receive a year-long membership, with access to the Early Career Leadership Program and the GENETICS Peer Review Training Program, a subscription to GENETICS, and newly created networking opportunities and events within the program itself. Presidential Members will not only benefit from these opportunities in the short-term; we aim to foster enduring connections with participants through the community of scholars and support structures we are building in parallel with this initiative. Applications are open now, and the deadline to apply is December 15, 2020.
While bringing in a diverse group of new members is a start, we recognize that increasing diversity alone is not enough. This effort must be accompanied by improvements in equity and inclusion throughout GSA. Our committee is hard at work developing projects to build an inclusive community that supports all of our membership and, indeed, the greater scientific community:
- We are creating guidelines for the planning and implementation of Equity and Inclusion sessions at GSA conferences, and we will strongly encourage our conference partners to adopt these guidelines. Diversity, equity, and inclusion work must become as foundational to the practice of science as doing experiments and writing papers. It should be featured whenever scientists gather to highlight the importance of the work. Our goal is to ensure that scholars and practitioners in the area of equity and inclusion are featured in a plenary session at each of our conferences. We’re excited that committee member Alana O’Reilly will be speaking in the new Equity and Inclusion Plenary Session at the 62nd Annual Drosophila Research Conference.
- We are working to establish a mentoring and networking program to foster connections between junior and senior GSA members from underrepresented backgrounds.
- We are developing an early outreach program for undergraduate and early graduate students to facilitate belonging and networking among students from historically excluded groups. By actively engaging scientists from the earliest stages of their career, we hope to chip away at the current reality of exclusion and disenfranchisement and remove some of the barriers that keep scientists from historically excluded populations from joining the field.
- Led by committee member Nadia Singh, the GSA is participating in coordinated equity and inclusion initiatives with other societies in allied fields in order to share information, facilitate use of best practices, increase solidarity and spheres of influence, and work toward common purpose. We look forward to the future joint initiatives that will flow from this nexus.
These projects are underway and in the process of being scoped, budgeted, and sent to the Board of Directors for approval. This has been an extremely challenging year—to say the least—but we are optimistic about the potential we see for changing our future. This is still the beginning of this work, and we greatly appreciate your ideas and your support. If you’d like to get in touch with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
GSA Equity and Inclusion Committee
Noah Whiteman Chair
Tracey DePellegrin Staff Liaison
Sarah Bay Staff Liaison