That 2020 was a hard year is an understatement. The coronavirus locked down our labs and schools, ravaged our nation, and shined a spotlight on racial and economic disparities in access to healthcare, jobs, education, and so much more. The continued murdering of Black people at the hands of police and the violent pushback and extreme rhetoric against the Black Lives Matter movement further indicated that we are indeed far from reaching racial equity and justice in this country.
Over the years, the American Society for Cell Biology has prioritized increasing the involvement of underrepresented minority scientists in the society and in the field, and has taken steps to be more inclusive, with open nominations, funding opportunities, mentoring opportunities. At the same time though, there is recognition that change has been slow. With hopes of doing more and promoting change and equity at a faster pace, this summer the ASCB Council called for creation of a taskforce to develop an action plan to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the ASCB.
After a call for volunteers from the society membership at large and ASCB committees, a diverse taskforce of volunteers from across the society at various career stages from a range of academic and nonacademic institutions was approved by council in late September 2020. The taskforce was charged to examine the current state of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Society, set goals for improvement, and identify specific actions to achieve these goals. The group has met three times and is working with the Kaleidoscope Group to develop an action plan to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the ASCB. The conversations and enthusiasm of the taskforce meetings have been productive and exciting. After an extended meeting in January, our initial plan will be completed and sent to the ASCB council, to include within the Strategic Plan and implement.
Even as the work of compiling these goals and suggestions for the taskforce is ongoing, the ASCB is already implementing ideas to increase equity and inclusion in our society. This includes actions to improve the 2021 Meeting program, an open call for volunteers for the Program Committee to the ASCB membership for the 2022 and 2023 meetings, more frequent meetings and consultations of Council to discuss and review progress on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the society, and inclusion of a member of the Executive Committee as an ex officio member of the MAC, WICB, and LGBTQ+ Committees to increase communication between these groups. As the taskforce and the society work to increase diversity, equity and inclusion, we continue to seek your feedback and involvement.
About the Author:
Stephanie L. Gupton is Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Research interests include neuronal shape change, cytoskeletal dynamics, and membrane trafficking. Twitter: @stephgupton1