March for Science: Gender Equity and Diversity

On 23 February 2017, the March for Science DC Twitter account attempted a discussion on an important equity and diversity issue: the gender pay gap. The approach brought to light recurring problems with diversity; namely how inclusion is imagined by the march organisers.

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  1. The tweet that sparked a series of important critiques has now been deleted, but colleagues screen capped a copy. The tweet asked "ladies" to explain the gender pay gap ahead of the Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day ("Girl Day").
  2. March for Science responded to my tweets, saying that they had women ("female") engineers on their organising team, who were "curious" to hear answers about the gender pay gap from "current students and others."
  3. This perspective is baffling. Why would the coordinators of the largest international science movement in recent times want to elicit personalised answers to gender oppression? The literature is clear on why the pay gap exists. It would be more useful to lead an informed discussion, beginning with some statistics, trends from the empirical literature, and then the solutions, which are well documented.
  4. That's not what happened.
  5. March for Science then asked me to "propose" some solutions, with an almost defeatist attitude to gender equity: "what society has been trying isn't working." It was clear, however, that the organising team does not really understand what has, or hasn't been "tried," and what has been effective. If the organisers understood the issue, this communication would have happened differently.
  6. The patterns affecting the gender pay gap in engineering are not about individuals. The issues are structural. Colleagues encouraged Science March to focus on the scientific perspective: consult the literature, be informed, educate, and avoid replicating the issues of inequity that Girl Day is set up to avoid.
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