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Recognizing our colleagues of color in Planetary Science

Presentation #502.06 in the session “Plenary Panel: Workforce Townhall”.

Published onOct 26, 2020
Recognizing our colleagues of color in Planetary Science

When speaking about diversity of a team or about combating discrimination and harassment, the focus is often primarily on gender, and often then only in regards to binary gender norms (Strauss et al., this conference). More is needed to achieve gender equity, but practices and culture within the Planetary Science community and U.S. society have improved the recruitment, retention, and promotion of women; the planetary science community is currently 37% women, 1% gender non-binary, and 62% men (Hendrix & Rathbun, this conference). However, gender is only one axis of identity and many other minoritized identities continue to be excluded via individual and systemic behaviors, processes, and decisions. In particular, efforts to improve gender diversity and promote women in science often do not consider other axes of identity, such as race (e.g.,, and have historically left out women of color. In general, there has been little to no progress made in regards to increasing the representation of Black and Latinx scientists who comprise two of the most underrepresented demographics in planetary science (Rivera-Valentín et al., this conference). Numerous studies have shown that scientists of color (1) experience race-based harassment (potentially coupled with other harassments) that cause them to miss out on professional opportunities, (2) devote large amounts of volunteered time and attention towards mentoring and equity, diversity, inclusion-focused initiatives that generally do not increase standing in the science community, and (3) are less likely to be included in activities (e.g., missions) that would increase standing in the science community. Other presentations at this conference will outline the ways in which a scientific community’s practices may exclude and discourage scientists of color and what can be done to disrupt or mitigate bias and discrimination. The focus of this presentation will be to recognize the contribution of Scientists of Color to the advancement of Planetary Science and Astrobiology, and describe specific actions that individuals and institutions can take to improve recruitment, retention, and promotion of underrepresented racial minorities and extend diversity, equity, and inclusion beyond efforts that primarily recognize and benefit white women. Such actions are especially needful in the present-day societal context of increased awareness of the myriad ways racism and systemic discrimination impact people’s lives and opportunities and how important culturally diverse perspectives are for ensuring the best science is achieved.

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