2014-10-30

 

Thinking about diversity

In the USA, 1 in 3 black men will go to prison at some point in their lives. These odds are 1 in 6 for Hispanic men and 1 in 17 for whites. The statistics related to death-penalty are similarly biased against black and Hispanic males. This overall backdrop of racial injustice is very visible at the academic level:

 It is against this backdrop of racial injustice that I oppose diversity efforts that focus exclusively on women instead of diversity in all its colors. Notice that the white and Asian women proportion of population in the US is about 42%, yet its proportions of BS, MS, and PHDs is (roughly) 44, 54, and 49%. Yes, the situation in some areas of science and engineering (e.g. computing) is worse than this in the US, but it is even much worse for blacks and Hispanics.

In the face of this reality, if justice and solidarity is truly the motivation, we should be putting the bulk of our diversity time & effort on increasing the numbers of blacks and Hispanics, especially males. When all the visible efforts are directed at increasing women participation alone, which is often the case in academia, given the numbers above, we are ultimately working more to help members of the most privileged groups in the US: white and Asian people (how many women in computing are not white or Asian, for instance?)

I do not intend to offend anyone, nor even to change people's minds. But maybe the numbers above can help us think about the tremendous lack of racial diversity we face in campuses, and bring about a discussion of how to approach diversity from a more inclusive and fairer standpoint.


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