Integrated Diversity and Inclusion Management!

Integrated Diversity and Inclusion Management!
September 8, 2015

Those of us who are moderately long in the tooth remember the bad old days of (un)safety. One occasion that I recall involved siphoning liquid scintillator with a rubber tube and a mouth, mine. Another was the inappropriate use of magnetic tools in a magnetic field. All that has changed; we are now proud of a safety record and performance, which limits the accidents that do damage to very few. It was our great pleasure a week or so ago to pass out symbolic gifts, cookies, to celebrate our community having worked more than a million person hours without having an injury serious enough to be recorded.  Some of you were also interviewed by a reviewer exploring our safety culture. In the closeout, we received compliments that were to the credit of the whole community. We are all proud of these things.

So what happened? The culture did change, we no longer speak of the ES&H or ESH&Q Department being congratulated for safety performance, we speak of the community. We have changed the culture, we have integrated safety, we have what we call an Integrated Safety Management System. Line management, from Director to individual, takes responsibility.

A different aspect of life that has received attention recently is that of diversity and inclusion. There have been lots of articles discussing this aspect of the workplace environment in several high-tech companies that have epitomized successful entrepreneurial approaches over the past 25 years.

Many of us easily recognized biases among our friends and colleagues, but were pretty much in denial when it came to looking in the mirror. Often, the scientists among us would challenge the methodology or the treatment of statistics and try to undermine or dismiss the conclusions. But slowly, the evidence has become overwhelming. We all carry biases, both implicit and explicit, and they appear in almost all aspects of professional life.

Bias could affect job assignments, raises, promotions, recruiting and retention. There was a recruitment bias study that demonstrated that faculty reading applications showed a clear implicit bias towards males, when applications differed only in the apparent gender. We have heard about some of this from acknowledged experts, and also from concerned distinguished scientists such as Elizabeth Simmons from Michigan State University.

During the past months, the National Labs Directors’ Council (NLDC), which is itself nearly, but not quite exclusively, an old white boys’ club, decided that it should pay attention.  Interestingly, the motivations are several.  Of course, one concern is that we should treat our fellow humans equitably. But another is that the scale of the renewal of the scientific and technical work force in the national labs is enormous.  Without some dramatic change in the numbers, and hence demography, of scientific and engineering recruits available to critical programs, we risk falling way short. 

So, the NLDC organized a workshop last week hosted by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. All but a couple of lab directors attended with a few other representatives from each lab, and a few from DOE.  I was accompanied by Rhonda Barbosa, Mary Logue, and Andrew Kimber. Over a day and a half, we heard first some presentations then participated in some structured sessions designed to consider what might be done and to come up with some “actionable” items. These ranged from recruitment across the lab complex, to improvements of relationships between the national lab complex and the sources of minority students, to better access and integration between the labs and academia. We were given time, within the program of the second morning, to discuss, as a Jefferson Lab caucus, what out of the several ideas we might attempt. Three options which fell into the “Explicit and Implicit Bias” category were:

  • Raise Diversity and Inclusion to level of Safety and Quality
  • Create and Enforce Workforce Diversity
  • Adjust policies and procedures to reflect industry and today’s environment.

We felt that these actions fit together and might be achievable; they were something concrete that we could work on at Jefferson Lab; we also felt that in some other suggested areas, such as university relations, our mission forces us to do already better than labs with limited accessibility.

We created a Diversity and Inclusion Council a couple of years ago. It is chaired by Rolf Ent and Mary Logue and has broad representation from the lab. It might be just the vehicle to help us develop and implement the elements of a program.

With the help of all, we can institute “Integrated Diversity and Inclusion Management”.