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Exclusionary Behaviors Reinforce Historical Biases and Contribute to Loss of Talent in the Earth Sciences

Written by: Erika Marin-Spiotta, Emily J. Diaz-Vallejo, Rebecca T. Barnes, Allison Mattheis, Blair Schneider, Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Meredith G. Hastings, Billy M. Williams, Vicki Magley
Published on: Jun 2, 2023

GeoscientistsPhoto Credit: Panumas/Adobe Stock

Geosciences remain one of the least diverse fields. Efforts to diversify the discipline need to address the role of hostile and exclusionary work and learning environments.

A workplace climate survey distributed to five professional organizations illustrates varied experiences of earth and space scientists over a 12-month period (pre-COVID). A majority experienced positive interactions in the workplace. However, scientists of color, women and non-binary individuals, scientists with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, pansexual, and asexual (LGBQPA+) scientists more frequently experienced negative interactions, including interpersonal mistreatment, discriminatory language, and sexual harassment. Geoscientists of color were more likely to experience devaluation of their work than white scientists. More than half of women and non-binary respondents, as well as those who identify as LGBQPA+ experienced identity-based discriminatory remarks. Disabled geoscientists were more likely to hear negative identity-based language than those who did not disclose a disability. Overall, 14% of all respondents experienced sexual harassment in the previous year. Rates were greatest for historically excluded groups: non-binary (51%), LGBQPA+ (33%), disabled (26%), women (20%), and geoscientists of color (17%). A majority of geoscientists reported avoiding their colleagues and almost a third considered leaving their institution or a career change. Historically excluded groups were more likely to report opting out of professional activities with potential career consequences. To address continued exclusion and low retention in the earth and space sciences, recruitment is not enough. We need to create environments that ensure opportunities for all to thrive.

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