Progress, Challenges in Diversity Highlight Opening Plenary Discussion at 2022 Joint Annual Meeting
The Opening Plenary at the 2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia on Sunday invited attendees to learn from a panel of guest speakers discussing “Perspectives on Diversity.” But one important perspective was evident from the start.
“I don’t think when I was a new member in this Society that I ever would have imagined that there would be an opening plenary with three Black women,” said Jessica Ware, Ph.D., ESA president and moderator for the panel discussion.
Ware was joined by Maydianne CB Andrade, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences at the University of Toronto; Cassandra G. Extavour, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and Timken professor of organismic and evolutionary biology and of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University; and Swanne Gordon, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis—three accomplished Black women scientists whose experiences reflect both progress made and challenges faced by people from underrepresented groups in scientific fields.
Ware asked the panelists what their paths to success taught them, and each noted that they faced difficulties that pushed too many other aspiring scientists of color out of the field. Gordon described the “myth of exceptionalism, that if you achieve all of these things, then success is right around the corner,” she said. “I think we’ve all learned that there are a lot of obstacles and structural biases, that it doesn’t matter how many of those good things that you do, you’re just not going to get through the door.”
Andrade recounted the critical role that mentors played in her career and emphasized that professional scientists in positions of influence—particularly white men—must learn how to mentor young scientists from backgrounds different from their own. And she.
“People need to have education of how to be a mentor, especially if you’re mentoring someone from an underrepresented group. It can feel fraught, that you can make mistakes, and I know that terrifies people,” she said. But it’s best to acknowledge that difference in backgrounds openly, she added “You can say, ‘I recognize that you my have a different experience than me. I would like to mentor you in a way that’s supportive. Tell me how you think I can help.’ I think you’re more likely to make mistakes if you make assumptions about the person.”
Extavour suggested that one key to not just welcoming but keeping scientists from underrepresented groups in scientific societies and institutions is ensuring they feel their perspectives are valued. And that starts simply with listening.
“Everyone wants to feel like they’re part of the conversation, like their voices matter. They literally want their voices to be heard,” she said. “One concrete thing we can do is when we’re in a meeting with a bunch of people who aren’t exactly like us, pay extra attention and make sure we’re actually registering and actually listening to everything that everyone is saying.”
The discussion explored a variety of additional subjects; for more, be sure to watch the full recording of the Opening Plenary, which will be available in the Joint Annual Meeting On-Demand program beginning November 28. Below are a few additional photos from the plenary and observations from attendees.
The respect I’ve seen being shown to First Nations in Vancouver is powerful. There is a lesson for others here. We are welcomed to #EntSoc22 Opening Plenary in a compilation of inspiring song, dance and tradition of the Squamish Nation. pic.twitter.com/nNdbB569R3
— Hefin Jones 🏴 🇺🇦 (@THJ1961) November 14, 2022
— Chris Stelzig (@ChrisStelzig) November 14, 2022
As our president @DrChandraLa just said: Welcome to the unceded ancestral territory of the Coast Salish Peoples – the shared territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and Səl̓ílwətaɬ Nations #EntSoc22 pic.twitter.com/ac086Q5DMz
— Entomol. Soc. BC (@EntSocBC) November 14, 2022
Welcome to Canada and the #EntSoc22 conference from Felix Sperling President of @CanEntomologist introducing us to the entomological diversity of Canada#entomology #Vancouver #Canada @EntsocAmerica @EntSocBC pic.twitter.com/Oa950hMkIW
— Royal Ent Soc (@RoyEntSoc) November 14, 2022
.@JessicaLWareLab is talking about insects and culture in her opening remarks. She’s highlighting the many successes of the society and the top caliber science of our members. Jessica is an inspiration in pretty much every way. #EntSoc22 #JAM2022 pic.twitter.com/eld5a3wNDP
— Dr. Brian Lovett (@lovettbr) November 14, 2022
For the FIRST TIME, in its history, Entomological Society of America, @EntsocAmerica has an all Black and Female panel at the Opening Plenary Session.@WidowWeb #entsoc2022 well done. Dr. Andrade, Dr. Extavour and Dr. Gordon. Yess. History. pic.twitter.com/k3M26arG1a
— Esther Ngumbi (@EstherNgumbi) November 14, 2022
Thought-provoking Opening Plenary Panel #EntSoc22 led by @WidowWeb @redmakeda and @swannegordon. Main focus around entomology and what the future might hold, but approaching this in the context of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Truly insightful comments based on experience. pic.twitter.com/yLfS9QG45D
— Hefin Jones 🏴 🇺🇦 (@THJ1961) November 14, 2022
On-Demand Program, opening November 28
2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, November 13-16, Vancouver