4 September 2018

A Voice for All Part I: Cultivating Leadership, Diversity and Inclusivity in Academia

Posted by Shane Hanlon

By Jane Wolken

There are distinct moments in life that open our hearts and minds to listening, and motivate us to become better scientists, teachers, administrators, and advocates. In these moments we must not underestimate our individual and collective ability to make our world a better place.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

~Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist

When I agreed to co-organize a Leadership Workshop for Early Career Women in Science with Joanna Young I did not imagine that the experience would open my heart and mind to listen, and motivate me to become an advocate for others. I was inspired by Joanna’s contagious optimism, and her excitement to share with others what she learned on her Homeward Bound leadership program in Antarctica. Homeward Bound is a leadership initiative that aims to bolster the influence of women in globally impactful decision-making. The Leadership Workshop for Early Career Women in Science blended elements of Homeward Bound with the expertise of women in leadership at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF).

Participants of the Leadership Workshop for Early Career Women in Science. Photo: Lindsey Heaney

The workshop motivated participants and the broader UAF community in unexpected ways. A group of six women co-authored a letter to UAF leadership recommending ways to improve the experience of women and other underrepresented groups. Two hundred and twenty five faculty, staff and students signed the letter in support. The University of Alaska is responding through an external salary equity analysis and a task force to evaluate diversity and equity.

The positive momentum following the workshop led to a second retreat-style workshop focused on imparting leadership skills to an even greater diversity of voices. The Alaska EPSCoR sponsored workshop, Mindful Leadership: Creating a Diverse and Inclusive UA was co-organized by Joanna Young (PhD Candidate), Jessie Young-Robertson (Research Assistant Professor), and myself (Program Coordinator of the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center).

Following both workshops I asked myself, can individuals or small groups of people make a difference? YES. In 2018 we still cannot say that all employees, including faculty, staff and students at colleges/universities have a voice. But I believe that passionate individuals and groups are making a difference. Many of the problems facing humanity today require science, communication, teaching, outreach and administrative support that may only be achieved through the lens of diverse disciplines, perspectives, knowledge systems, and more. The success of these collaborative efforts may be accomplished through the creation of more diverse and inclusive work environments where there is a Voice for All.

“When you find a voice for someone else, in the process you find a voice for yourself,” said Anupma Prakash, UAF Provost, Alaska EPSCoR Project Director, and workshop participant.

Participants of the workshop, Mindful Leadership: Creating a Diverse and Inclusive UA. Photo: Heather McFarland

– Jane Wolken is a Voices for Science Advocate and Program Coordinator of the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center. Her workshop co-organizers are Joanna Young and Jessie Young-Robertson.