Equity, Diversity & Inclusion: What can we do to change things?

Rising Researcher Dr. Darryl Boyd addressed equity, diversity and inclusion in science.

18 April 2019
Daneet Steffens

Dr. Darryl Boyd addresses the EDI event at SPIE DCS

On Wednesday, 17 April, SPIE President Jim Oschmann opened SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing's inaugural Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) event. After a few introductory remarks and a brief description of SPIE's EDI program - as well as noting that, as of this year, SPIE's Board of Directors is 45 percent women - Oschmann introduced the afternoon's speaker, Dr. Darryl Boyd, a polymer chemist at the US Naval Research Laboratory who proactively works to inspire children's interest in STEM fields, and is one of this year's SPIE DCS Rising Researchers.

Boyd's engaging presentation addressed the heart of the equity matter from the start: "The notion of equity, diversity and inclusion has to be intentional, it has to be active. We have tried, for decades now, the passive approach, and it hasn't really helped much. So it has to be something at the forefront of your thought processes when you're planning your conferences, when you're looking at awards, when you're looking at grants. Whatever you do in terms of the science and engineering community in order to promote a more equitable and diverse and inclusive environment, it has to be on purpose."

Boyd's informative and clear-eyed talk referenced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, recording artist Janet Jackson, pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm, Head of the Chemical Engineering Department at MIT Paula T. Hammond, and the makeup of recent years of Nobel Prizes, as he addressed the ongoing issues of bias, discrimination, and lack of representation in science and technology fields.

In an eye-opening aside, Boyd told of his older brother's experiences of travel, education, and developing self-awareness in Africa, where for the first time in his life, he didn't have to "prove he wasn't a threat" because of the color of his skin.

"What we see, matters," Boyd said. "The reason I put my website together was that I wanted my young cousins to see that they could also be scientists, that anyone could be a scientist."

Be aware, he added, that "merit is inherently subjective....whether you look at publications, citations, whether you look at the institutions people come from, the journals that they publish in, you must accept that they are inherently subjective. When a decision is made, rules can be broken - and often are. This notion of merit being a hard-and-fast rule, often does not apply."

"Nominate more women for awards, nominate more people of color for awards," Boyd said, rounding off his presentation. "Especially early in their careers. And encourage potential nominees to speak up: if you think someone qualifies for an award, tell them! Recognize the privileges that you have, and consider how you can be a help to other people who may not have those same privileges."

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