So You Want To Be Inclusive

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:

  1. How are conference funds and organizing duties distributed within a department?  Who is making invitation decisions?  Are they responsive to criticism?
  2. 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.?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?

Thoughts?  Suggestions?

Reader query about resources for including women people of color.

A reader asks:

I am looking for information about lists of resources for including woman and people of color in classes on 20th century “continental” philosophy. I put that in scare quotes simply because the list need not be (should not be?) restricted geographically- people who work(ed) in say, Latin America or the Caribbean but with ideas we might identify with continental thinking should be included. I have a decent list going just off the top of my head both of philosophers working at the time, and philosophers who discuss their work now, but would appreciate input from this group or direction to other already developed resources- lists of names or works, presentations, videos etc. My list is being developed as a way of making clear to my department that it is in fact quite possible to include women and people of color in this course.

Any thoughts?


Best practice for tracking gender of survey respondents?

A reader sends the following query:
Is there any consensus on the best method for asking gender information on surveys? I’m reviewing a proposal for a research committee, and their approach is “A. Male B. Female C. Other”. On the one hand, hooray for having more than 2 options. On the other hand, “Other” is kind of, well, ‘othering’.
My suggestion would be to leave a blank that participants can fill in as they wish, but don’t know if there are other approaches.

Reader Query: “The Science of Sex Appeal”

A reader writes:

Has anyone seen the documentary “The Science of Sex Appeal,” and if so, could you please recommend academic sources that counter the claims made by this video?” While Cordelia Fine’s book is great for arguing against this evolutionary psychology bullshit more generally (sorry; maybe it isn’t all bullshit, but THIS stuff is), I’d really like to be able to point to specific claims made in the video and offer specific, scientifically supported claims to the contrary. I haven’t found anything through database searches.

UPDATE: This post has been a nightmare to moderate.  Do to many requests, I tried to confine comments to ones that really address the reader’s query, rather than dealing in big generalisations about whether feminists hate evolutionary psychology, etc. I’m now closing comments.


FURTHER UPDATE: This is being briefly re-opened.

Reader query on avoiding all-male colloquia

A reader writes:

I’m a Ph.D student in a philosophy department and was recently tasked with organizing a graduate student colloquium series for the upcoming semester. I sent out an email calling for volunteers, got quick responses, and typed up the list (the speakers and dates are now finalized). Then it struck me all too late that the list was completely male.

It should be noted that none of the women in the department volunteered to present–but I think it would be premature for me to write this off as their own fault for not volunteering. It’s too late for me to change the list now, but I am wondering if you can suggest any ways to avoid this in the future. Merely telling the women in the program that they should volunteer because we need to diversify the list seems heavy-handed to me.

Any thoughts on what the organiser should do? My thought would be to make individual suggestions to women of the form “Hey, you gave a great paper on X to our work in progress seminar. Maybe you could do that at the colloquium?”.

Equality and Diversity Training for Undergrads?

A reader has written to ask about instituting Equality and Diversity training across a university for undergrads. I think the focus at her university is on implicit bias related issues, but obviously things like bystander training could be incorporated. Does anyone know of ways that this has been done well and successfully? I know that sometimes this sort of effort can backfire, so would appreciate the cautions as well as the more positive suggestions.

Reader query: success rates for women and minorities

I’ve had the following query from a reader.

This is just a request for some information (if you happen to have it, or know someone who might) regarding whether it’s in fact easier for women and minorities to get jobs in philosophy in the current climate.

There is a lot of negative energy in philosophy at the moment (as you know), and one thing that occurs quite frequently is what I call the taking away of credit from women and minorities for their successes on the job market. It takes the form of faculty members and graduate students saying “So-and-so only got that job because she’s a woman/minority”. Because this kind of attitude is so pervasive and so harmful (because it devalues women/minorities), one perhaps easy thing to do to combat it would be to make some stats available to the relevant people/departments. I’ve been trying to collect the relevant information, but it’s a slow and tedious process. I was thus wondering whether you might have some of this information already.

Please do respond if you’ve got the stats! But I’d say also respond if you have thoughts about other ways of dealing with such claims. I have suggested citing implicit bias as good evidence that things won’t be easier for women and minorities.

Reader query: Reviewing all male book

A (male, tenured) reader writes:

I have to review a book that came out in 2013. It contains 14 essays, with 15 authors (as one is co-authored). I agreed to do it without considering the makeup of the authors. Now I see that all the authors are men.

I’m looking for some advice on how to mention the gender makeup of the volume. My gut instinct to say something snarky. But snark can be a mistake.

I’m tenured and willing to take hostile responses from just about anyone. So I don’t have to worry about how it will effect me.

Thanks for any advice you can supply!