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“Climate” change: how to impact workforce diversity via addressing inter-institutional spaces in planetary science

Presentation #504.02 in the session “IDEA: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility”.

Published onOct 03, 2021
“Climate” change: how to impact workforce diversity via addressing inter-institutional spaces in planetary science

Prior studies demonstrate the under-representation of women and minorities in the planetary science workforce as well as on mission teams, in addition to a persistently leaky educational pipeline [1,2]. Taken together, these findings suggest that minority entrants face barriers to participation and advancement that go beyond broad societal obstacles to careers in STEM. Based on 15 years of sociological study this paper suggests two as-yet unaddressed factors that restrict BIPOC careers and challenge external assessment.

These factors concern the field’s “third spaces”: missions, field schools, and conferences. Unlike traditional workplaces in which an institution manages and determines advancement, climate, and diversification, third spaces transcend institutional, departmental, and even disciplinary boundaries. Such spaces play a central role in planetary scientists' careers. Field schools are integral aspects of induction into the field; conferences are essential for research dissemination and reputation management; and missions endure for decades, offering essential data access alongside limited opportunities for junior scholars' career advancement. As anthropologist Mary Leighton argues, such third spaces are significant to professional experiences and career expectations in the field despite – or perhaps because – they are sheltered from institutional norms, legal apparatus, and purview [3].

We review rigorously-collected ethnographic data from three missions on the characteristics of gendered harassment in such “third spaces.” Additionally, we examine the cultural features that identify them as what Harvard sociologist Elijah Anderson calls “white spaces” [4]: navigable and normalized for white field members, but for minority scientists provoke persistent tensions or anxieties, prompt reassessment of fit, erase participation and inspire “token fatigue” [5-7]. The liminal nature of such spaces challenges efforts to trace, quantify, and intervene in such problems, and current diversification resources focus on single institutional environments. We therefore suggest novel approaches to the measurement, management, and change of “climate” in the third spaces of planetary sciences.

References: [1] Rathbun, J.A. et al. (2018) LPSC Abst. 2668 [2] Rivera-Valentin, E. et al. (2020) DPS 52 Pres. 502.07 [3] Leighton, M. Am. Anthro. (2020) 122, 444-458. [4] Anderson, E. Soc. Race & Ethn. (2015) 1, 10-21 [4] Correll, S. J. (2004) Am. Soc. Rev. 69, 93-113 [5] Bimm, J. (2021) His. Stud. Nat. Sci 51, 285-329 [6] Shim, J. (2021), Ethn. Rac. Stud. 44, 1115–1134.

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