A reader is asking for guidance on creating inclusive events. Their problem? Not every attempt to be inclusive works. So for those with experience, what strategies have proven reliable? What can you do if your ideal conference line-up all decline the invitation? What do you say if the colleague organizing this year’s colloquium series has pulled together a rather marginalizing list, despite your suggestions? How do you translate the aspiration to be inclusive into actual inclusion?
A female colleague recently reached out to me about a lack of inclusivity in an academic setting. This got us talking about a variety of things. One thing was strategies for making conference/colloquium schedules more inclusive. I asked her for advice about this. She recommended that I reach out to you (all).
Context: We were talking about how there are a variety of ways in which even progressive departments and conferences (i.e., ones run by progressive people) fail to be inclusive. E.g., one otherwise inclusive department’s colloquium schedule does not feature any non-white non-male (etc.) speakers.
My own experience: Some of my attempts to be inclusive don’t pan out. And many of my second, third, etc. attempts don’t pan out either. In the moment, I felt like I am going out of my way to be inclusive and somehow not succeeding — I am sure there was more to it than this, as will become clear in a moment.
I am interested in brainstorming ways to be inclusive when putting together, say, conferences and colloquium schedules: anything that involves inviting scholars to participate in something, really. I have searched through this blog and gathered some ideas — I particularly enjoyed reading “I Dreamt Of An Inclusive Conference,” by the way. One idea is for conferences to be held online, eliminating some of the difficulties associated with attending a conference and thereby making it easier for people who might not otherwise be able to participate. Still, I imagine that there are all sorts of things that have not even occurred to me. (And in my more anxious moments, I worry about how I might be clueless to the fact that I am the (or part of the) problem).
Any guidance/correction/resources/etc. would be very much appreciated.
It seems to me that there are at least four separate stages worth considering:
- How are conference funds and organizing duties distributed within a department? Who is making invitation decisions? Are they responsive to criticism?
- If you have the opportunity to organize an event yourself, how should a desire to be inclusive affect the planning stages: the conception of the topic, the kind of event and how it will convene, the keynote selection, etc.?
- Once the event is in the works, how do you ensure representative participation? Where and how do you advertise the CFA/CFP? How are you evaluating the submissions you get? Where and how do you announce the event to encourage outside attendance? Should you engage in outreach? Should some funds be reserved to facilitate attendance by those for whom attendance is difficult?
- As the event approaches, and as it’s underway, what should you do (and what resources should you set aside) to ensure that attendees are able to participate fully? What instructions should chairs be given on managing the queue? What can you do if the tenor of Q&A or discussion turns exclusive?
And a difficult question raised by the reader’s concern: what constitutes a good faith effort? What should you do if attempts to be inclusive fail? Can you reach a point where you’ve done all you can?