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    Women in Optics Luncheon Addresses Gender Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity

    Women in Optics Luncheon at SPIE Astro 2018

    There was a completely full house at the SPIE Women in Optics and Diversity and Inclusion luncheon at SPIE Astro on Monday, where approximately 80 enthusiastic participants, seated at tables, shared ideas, experiences, and suggestions on ways to proactively create more diversity, inclusion, gender equity, and overall awareness at the workplace, at conferences, and beyond. SPIE member and keynote speaker Céline d'Orgeville of Australian National University discussed the current SPIE initiatives around the topics of under-represented groups in optics - including raising awareness of gender equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace; improving gender equity, diversity, and inclusion in SPIE committees; and improving gender equity, diversity, and inclusion in conference planning and organization -- and then the attendees conferred in their individual groups before sharing their actionable items with the others.

    "You tend to hire in your own image," noted Sarah Gajadhar of SG Consulting Inc. "Finding ways to add diversity to hiring committees might be an opportunity to increase the diversity of the candidates that get advocated for." There also is, she said her group discussed, "the possibility of one person to really be instrumental in change. We talked about instances where one person was able to drive effective change in their organization. It's being able to be an advocate; recognize as individuals that we have the opportunity to impact things that are happening as we bring people into our organization."

    Allison Barto, program manager for the James Webb Space Telescope at Ball Aerospace, and her group suggested having "Dignity Champions" at conferences, staff or volunteers who are designated "go-to" people regarding any issues of harassment or inclusion onsite. They would be required to have training in the area of diversity, inclusion, and gender equity, and this was, she noted, a concept similar to that of the Astronomy Allies group that is present at AAS meetings.

    "We need clear code of conduct and we need visible volunteers and points-of-contact for who at the conference we can discuss things with, not just gender issues but any sort of harassment," Vanessa Bailey of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, and her table-colleagues added. "We need more accessibility at our conferences. Whether that's gender neutral restrooms or resources for people with hearing impairment, or for people with whom English is not a first language. They might appreciate closed-captioning and microphones in every single session. We're in an era of AI; we should be able to do real-time voice transcription. We need to allow - on badges & in the registration process - non-binary pronouns, normalize the use of pronouns on every person's badge to facilitate that."

    Other considerations that came up for discussion included the importance of recognizing how this issues change and play out internationally -- what is considered inclusive and normal in one culture, might be unaccepted or even illegal in others - as well as the critical need of representing diversity not just at conferences, but from the earliest incarnations of their marketing and promotion. That takes, it was agreed, a deep understanding of the power of SPIE as a society to confidently enforce the values that it wants to represent and hold.

    The engaged and lively event was thought-provoking as well as indicative of the urgency and commitment that the participants share to actively move forward in terms of addressing these issues.