CSC President’s Event fosters brainstorming session

June ACCN
CSC CONFERENCE

This year’s CSC conference featured a new format for the President’s Event. Outgoing president Kim Baines, FCIC, took up the challenge of how to make inclusion, diversity, and equity a priority for everyone in a discussion format. She used the occasion as an opportunity to champion a key initiative in the CSC’s strategic plan, the Working Group for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (WIDE). Over the last year this body has identified topics that are directly relevant to the chemical science community, which were discussed throughout many of the conference symposia in Edmonton.

The CSC President’s lunchtime gathering was devoted to three major aspects of the WIDE agenda: educational equity, conference issues including a speaker code of conduct, and an inclusion, diversity, and equity (IDE) framework for CSC. Some 66 people attended and broke up into smaller groups dedicated to one of these three categories.

“The idea is that this is a brainstorming session,” Baines explained to the participants. “I don’t want you to hold back. I don’t want you to think your ideas are too far out in left field. I don’t want you to think they’re too expensive. I don’t want you think they’re too outrageous. I don’t want you to think they’re too conservative. We want to hear all your ideas.”

Outgoing CSC President Kim Baines speaks at the President’s Event in Edmonton

Outgoing CSC President Kim Baines speaks at the President’s Event in Edmonton.

Afterward, as she looked over the sizeable collection of notes that captured the exchanges that took place at various tables, she expressed her satisfaction with the way the event had unfolded. “The discussion was quite respectful,” she concluded.

In fact, those discussions covered a great deal of ground, from people’s experiences with mentoring and advancement processes to the privacy questions raised by allowing photographers to take pictures of attendees at conferences. Much of the conversation surrounded the need for administrative transparency, so that everyone in an organization can see clearly what measures are in place to assure fair treatment for all, as well as what measures might be missing and what steps therefore need to be taken. CSC will use the input from these roundtable discussions to frame future IDE policies for the society.

For incoming CSC president Deborah Nicoll-Griffith, who is looking forward to seeing WIDE’s work carry on during her tenure, such clarity is essential to ensuring an institution’s progress beyond the limitations that are often imposed by an unwillingness to address uncomfortable truths.

“There’s a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in,” she said, quoting songsmith Leonard Cohen. “It was one of his best lines.”

Queen’s University Equity Advisor Heidi Penning discusses inclusion, diversity, and equity at the President’s Event, part of CSC 2018 in Edmonton.

Queen’s University Equity Advisor Heidi Penning discusses inclusion, diversity, and equity at the President’s Event, part of CSC 2018 in Edmonton.

Among the most fundamental themes of the event was the assertion that careers in chemistry revolve around much more than the technical aspects of the science. The desire to continue working in this demanding field is driven by a sense of social belonging that must be nurtured and sustained by everyone in an institution.

This message was strongly conveyed by Heidi Penning, the equity advisor for Queen’s University, a special guest who spoke prior to the group discussions. She reminded her audience that the matters being broached by WIDE are not the domain of some specialized or isolated set of interests but a common responsibility for one and all.

“We’re all diversity and inclusion practitioners,” she said. “We have to actively and individually identify and eliminate barriers that prevent the full participation of some groups. Whether we’re staff admin or faculty members, it starts with us.”

Participants discuss inclusion, diversity, and equity at the President’s Event, part of CSC 2018 in Edmonton

Participants discuss inclusion, diversity, and equity at the President’s Event, part of CSC 2018 in Edmonton.