Diversity in research institutes

kkaye at vax.oxford.ac.uk kkaye at vax.oxford.ac.uk
Tue Aug 22 08:28:11 EST 1995


Marilyn Walker, in asking for good ideas supporting diversity in research
institutes, mentioned that the younger men are reactionary and defensive. It
would be, perhaps, useful, to meet that anticipated reaction by saying at the
beginning that diversity is not a way of castigating young white men for being
young white men. 

The usual facets of this kind of discussion can be: the department needs to
maximise its funding [and intellectual] strengths by doing what it does well
and concentrating on that; diversity is a threat to that process. Then someone
else says that diversity is about equal opportunity and we don't know if it's
athreat to maximising strengths because opportunities aren't equal; then
someone else says that equal opportunity and intellectual strengths are not
compatible parts of the argument and then everyone gets teribly snarled up in
the hassles about soft money/hard money, race and ethnicity, gender, and so on;
and the ideas about the discipline and the institute's larger role in the
discipline get lost.

My 2 p's worth: challenge the audience to define what the discipline's goals
are, what the institute's role is; and Marilyn can spend her remaining 4.5
minutes pointing out that they have diversity in some dimensions and not
others. There is no arbitrary intellectual reason for believing the white men
or Mexican women or hybrids of any shape or origin necessarily improve a
research institute. The issues are, I think, about whether the institute is
happy with relying on so much soft funding *at all*, and what it is doing to
improve its hard-funding base; whether its child-care facilities are enabling
its young parents to take care of their children; and whether it is encouraging
as much synthesis as possible between its members. Institutes which work well
together and create good projects do well with their gender and ethnic mixes.

Arbitrary indices of ethnic and gender diversity do not a department make; it's
the financial diversity and the density of within-dept cooperative networks
which make an attractive department. A diverse human resource base is an
advantage in the funding stakes in allowing for more creativity in those
arenas. men of all origins may find that a bit threatening, but that is their
problem; they belong to yesterday even if they are only 25 or 30....

End of soapboxing! I think Marilyn has a diverse institute with strengths to
build on....

(Dr.) Katherine Kaye
(BA Colorado, 1983 - hello, Boulder!)



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