Diversity and Inclusion: Leveraging Actions Through Collaboration

The American Fisheries Society and Wildlife Society recognize the importance of diversity and the important role it plays in meeting the needs and challenges of the constantly changing world. To discuss how best to grow AFS into a more diverse and inclusive organization, fifteen fisheries professionals across the academic, federal, state, tribal, and NGO community came together in 2017 to discuss game changing solutions for enhancing diversity and inclusion. Launching off the success of these discussions, in 2018 speakers again came together for an audience based, interactive and in-depth discussion to produce actionable items for improving diversity and inclusion. This year, we seek to take this conversation to the next level: how can we translate strategies into implementable actions and work collaboratively with TWS to implement meaningful change. The 2019 joint AFS/TWS symposium will seek to build synergies and leverage action through collaboration as well as generate discussions on operationalizing solutions and best practices, changing institutional culture to be more diverse and inclusive and looking at how individual actions can lead to broader systemic change.

8:00AM Introductory Remarks
8:20AM I-Nature (Indigenous iNtegration of Aquatic sciences and Traditional-Ecological-Knowledge for Undergraduate culturally Responsive Education): Piloting a Culturally Inclusive Approach to STEM Education for Underrepresented Minority Undergraduates.
  Alexander Alexiades, Schuster Corbin
American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students have the lowest college enrollment and graduation rates of any underrepresented minority population at mainstream U.S. colleges and universities, and are the least represented minority in the STEM fields. i-NATURE seeks to understand and address this enrollment deficit and prepare students for the future. The primary goal of i-NATURE is to develop and pilot a new, culturally-responsive, place-based model for Fisheries and Aquatic Science curriculum that can provide a seamless transition from high school to the STEM workforce for AI/AN. i-NATURE created this model for STEM education by establishing a strong collaboration between Heritage University, the Yakama Nation Fisheries, and partnerships with several tribes, agencies, and universities around the Pacific Northwest. The program is tailored to meet the needs of AI/AN and other URM students in a culturally responsive manner while simultaneously helping students acquire the skills and knowledge most critical for success in the STEM workforce and graduate school and provide a strong foundation in data analysis and computing. The model has shown a significant increase in retention rates, students entering graduate programs, and improved learning outcomes for AI/AN students in STEM programs.
8:40AM Engaging Adolescent Learners through Marine Sciences
  Heidi Meister
The 21st century system of education has struggled with the lack of emphasis placed on relevant learning experiences for adolescent learners. While standards and high-stakes testing are used as measures of achievement, little attention is paid to equitable and inclusive practices that engage learners to find relevance in basic to advanced mathematics concepts. Explore how applying mathematics to the marine sciences can be a step towards developing conceptual understanding and provide opportunities to promote culturally responsive teaching practices. Scuba operations and navigation activities will highlight the opportunities for learning experiences that promote applying mathematics in real-life contexts.
9:00AM Engagement in the Diversity Joint Venture for Conservation Careers
  Jamila Blake
As part of The Wildlife Society’s dedication to improve workforce diversity within the wildlife profession, TWS became a partner organization of the Diversity Joint Venture for Conservation Careers (DJV) in 2017. The DJV – a partnership of federal and state agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations, foundations and professional societies that work together to increase the number of women and people of color in the conservation workforce – works to introduce students and potential employees to the conservation field, provide resources relevant to internships and jobs in the conservation workforce, advise employers about recruitment and hiring practices and support opportunities for career growth and development. These efforts by DJV Partners will support and enhance efforts by conservation organizations to attract, recruit and retain a new, dynamic cadre of diverse employees whose fresh insights and perspectives will increase productivity in the conservation workplace. The DJV’s activities are guided by five strategies that include branding of conservation field, supporting an inclusive work environment, increasing diversity in the workforce, networking and education. Additionally, through other on-going diversity initiatives, TWS has been working with partner organizations and TWS members to develop recommendations for increasing recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in the wildlife profession.
9:20AM Four Patterns of Gender Bias Every Professional Should Know
  Jennifer Malpass
Highly skilled workers can succumb to the effects of gender bias and imposter syndrome, even when they are well-qualified for their job. Recent research by Williams and Dempsey has defined four major patterns of behavior that disadvantage women in the workplace and create the major obstacles to increasing women in leadership. First, women must “Prove It Again!” because women are held to higher standards of performance than men, who are more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt and be promoted on potential versus past performance. Second, women at work must walk the “Tightrope” between appearing too assertive (masculine) at work versus too passive (feminine) in order to maintain the respect of their colleagues. Third, women still face significant trade-offs between careers and families, a pattern Williams and Dempsey call “The Maternal Wall.” Finally, conflict among women regarding the “right” way to do things leads to a “Tug of War” that limits progress towards gender parity in leadership. Understanding how gender biases are working against you and/or your colleagues will empower fish and wildlife professionals to better recognize and mitigate effects of gender biases within our workplaces.
09:40AM Break
1:10PM Partnership Education Program Alaska
  Sorina Seeley, Megan Hillgartner, Kaja Brix
Section 305(j) of the Magnuson Stevens Act states mandates that: “The Secretary shall establish a pilot program for regionally-based marine education and training programs in the Western Pacific and the Northern Pacific to foster understanding, practical use of knowledge (including native Hawaiian, Alaskan Native, and other Pacific Islander-based knowledge), and technical expertise relevant to stewardship of living marine resources. The Secretary shall […] establish programs or projects that will improve communication, education, and training on marine resource issues throughout the region and increase scientific education for marine related professions among coastal community residents, including indigenous Pacific islanders, Native Hawaiians, Alaskan Natives, and other underrepresented groups in the region.” The Partnership for Education Program Alaska (PEP AK) is an education-workforce development program specifically designed to meet the unmet mandates of the sections 305(j) specifically in Alaska. Established under partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska Region, PEP AK provides hands-on, experiential learning opportunities in a real workforce setting to undergraduate students. We share lessons learned from year 1 design and implementation of this program including best practices and suggestions for moving forward.
1:30PM Emerging Initiative Increases LGBTQ+ Visibility to Foster Support and Inclusion in the Wildlife Profession
  Travis Booms, Claire Crow, Katherine O’Donnell, Colleen Olfenbuttel
An estimated 3-5% of US citizens identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and related identities (LGBTQ+). However, because of a lack of legal protections from discrimination (e.g., job, housing, lending) in most US states and the fact that sexual and gender identity are not intrinsically observable, LGBTQ+ professionals in the wildlife field tend to be invisible and/or closeted to their peers and each other. In addition, concerns about acceptance in the wildlife profession have resulted in promising individuals choosing to change to other professions that are more supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals. Recognizing that role models and support networks would encourage LGBTQ+ wildlifers to remain in the profession and become leaders in their fields, Travis Booms wrote “I am one of you” (The Wildlife Professional, March/April 2019) emphasizing the need to support increased visibility of LGBTQ+ wildlifers. His article inspired a small group of TWS members to initiate “Out in the Field”, whose goals are to increase visibility of LGBTQ+ wildlife professionals within TWS, build a community of LGBTQ+ wildlife professionals, and identify ways to support all LGBTQ+ wildlifers, including students, in the wildlife profession. The 2019 TWS-AFS Joint Conference will serve as the inaugural launch of “Out in the Field” with a lunch social, pins to show support, and ambassadors wearing rainbow ribbons to help LGBTQ+ conference attendees recognize some of their own. TWS’s Ethnic and Gender Diversity Working Group (EGDWG) has embraced the initiative, which will be housed under their umbrella. EGDWG has successfully implemented other approaches to growing an inclusive and diverse culture, including keynote speakers, publications, symposia, an annual Diversity Award, and the burgeoning Women of Wildlife (WOW) committee. Together, we will continue to explore methods of moving towards a wildlife profession in which everyone feels welcome, respected, supported and valued.
1:50PM Moving Toward a Welcoming Culture By Addressing Sexual Harassment
  Liisa Schmoele, Serra Hoagland, Ph.D.
We are in an era of increasing awareness about how diversity within our conservation ranks positively impacts our ability to relate to the American public and increases our effectiveness in conserving and restoring habitat for fish, wildlife, and plants. Our agencies and organizations are focused on recruiting the brightest minds from all walks of life, and our leaders are supportive of these efforts. The piece that logically follows, if we hope to retain staff from underrepresented groups, is to create a culture that is truly welcoming and inclusive. Though many strides have been made in this direction, we still have improvements to make. This presentation synthesizes recent research on sexual harassment of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and results from the 2017 Department of Interior workplace environment survey. To gain insight on how this translates to those in the field, I discuss results from interviews conducted in 2019 with female federal employees working in the natural resources regarding their experiences with harassment. This concludes with current efforts by federal agencies to prevent harassment and thoughts on further actions that could improve our conservation culture.
2:10PM Addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Western Division AFS: Understanding the Issues
  Cheyenne Owens, Emily Klein, Larissa Lee, Rebecca Waskovich
The Western Division (WD) Diversity & Inclusion Committee administered a survey to WD members investigating backgrounds, views, and experiences with issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The purpose of administering the survey was to: 1). establish baseline membership demographics for future comparison in order to see if DEI efforts implemented are having a measurable effect on membership demographics; and 2) establish baseline DEI views and experiences of membership for future comparison in order to see if DEI efforts implemented are having a measurable effect on members’ views and/or experiences. This presentation addresses initial outcomes of that survey, including demographic information and respondents’ experiences with discrimination, microaggressions, and harassment within the fisheries profession. Survey results highlight efforts that are working, but also demonstrate opportunities for the WD to be more inclusive, welcoming, and engage a more diverse community of fisheries professionals. In particular, over 40% of respondents reported experiencing either discrimination, harassment, or frequent microaggressions within the fisheries profession. These results provide baseline information on the current WD fisheries professional community and culture and inform where to focus DEI efforts moving forward. Finally, a future objective is to use lessons learned to develop a Society-wide survey effort.
2:30PM Removing the Stigma: Mental Health in the Natural Resources Profession
  Cheyenne Owens
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and October 10th is World Mental Health Day. According to the U.S. Census, 30.3% of adults have a disability, 9.7% of whom have a condition limiting mental or cognitive functioning, which can cause symptoms that may interfere with the ability to manage everyday activities. Employment plays a critical role in promoting recovery of mental health; however, social stigma and systemic barriers can make it difficult to maintain employment. Despite the desire to work and/or prior work experience, the likelihood of a person with a serious mental illness having full-time employment is approximately 1 in 10. With recent studies finding 1) PhD students more than six times likelier to show moderate to severe anxiety or depression than the general population and 2) emergency room visits doubling between 2007-2015 for children who attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts, addressing and removing barriers that individuals with mental illnesses face in the natural resources profession would benefit both current and future workforce. This presentation aims to spread mental health awareness, provide information on relevant legal protections and available resources (eg. reasonable accommodations), and how to get involved in removing the stigma.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM A Three Year Reflective Look on AFS D&I Activities: Is It Working?
  Zach Penney
Similar to many organizations, the American Fisheries Society continues to struggle with diversity and inclusion and is actively seeking ways to improve the “disciplinary, gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity” of its membership. Continued dialogue and engagement with members and external partners have helped AFS to identify areas where new strategies can be applied, and how to effectively implement those ideas. Taking a reflective look at the AFS D&I activities over the past three years have resulted in updated demographic data and a creation of workshops and symposiums dedicated to open dialogue on this topic. The goal of this reflective review is to determine if these efforts are truly making a difference in AFS membership composition.
3:40PM The Equal Opportunity Section of AFS: What’s in Your Tackle Box?
  Nivette M. Perez-Perez, Zach Penney, April Croxton
Similar to many organizations, the American Fisheries Society continues to struggle with diversity and inclusion and is actively seeking ways to improve the “disciplinary, gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity” of its membership. The American Fisheries Society’s Equal Opportunity Section (EOS) works to encourage the exchange of information pertinent to the promotion of employment, education, scholarships, participation, professionalism, and recruitment for all individuals in the fisheries profession. The goal of the EOS is to increase the representation and involvement of diverse ethnic/racial groups and females in the American Fisheries Society. The EOS will build off the talks from the last several annual meetings that focused on the demographics of AFS (historically underrepresented groups in fisheries like African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American are less than 10% of the Society’s membership combined) and how unconscious biases arise from our cultures and experiences. This year, the EOS will talk about what diversity is and isn’t and what steps the society should be taking to focus on the changes we want to see.
4:00PM Finding Your Village
  Shadaesha Green
Scientists, undergraduate/graduate students, lab technicians, and researchers together make up the greater scientific community. I have learned that the scientific community itself is a great resource for collaboration, support, and knowledge that is important to the generations of scientist to come. In this presentation, I describe my introduction to STEM and the community that provided me support along the way. Connections made throughout my journey to graduate school were not only pivotal to where I am today, but to where my future career paths take me. As I reflect back to all of the individuals who encouraged me, my own village, during this time it is important for me to look toward the next generation of scientist following behind me to provide them with my support as they navigate the path in STEM fields. So finally, I will share strategies that current graduate students and advisors can implement to increase diversity in the graduate student populations at their own institutions.
4:20PM Turning the Tide through Feminist Political Ecology: (Re)Visiting Insights for Fisheries Science and Practice
  Anna Lavoie
Feminist political ecology, concerned with uneven access to resources based on the gender and social status of resource users, has been an underutilized approach in research focused on the human dimensions of fisheries. In this presentation, I propose revisiting classic feminist political ecology for a “transformed socially just science.” Turning the tide for diversity, inclusion and equity in fisheries requires not only an examination of underrepresented groups and communities of resource users, but also gender biases in fisheries science and practice. Classic themes put forth by Rocheleau et al. (1996) call attention to gendered knowledge, gendered rights and access to resources, and gendered organizations. Questions to be discussed are; what insights, opportunities, and challenges exist for women in fisheries science and fisheries practice; and how can feminist political ecology inform transformation?
4:40PM Embrace the Chase
  Amanda Lawrence
Taking advantage of opportunities is essential, especially if you don’t know exactly how to reach that perfect career, or even what that exact career is. Embracing the chase to obtain that profession is easier when you aren’t running alone. I want to walk you through the opportunities that I have embraced, and in return have helped shape, teach and guide me through graduate school and beyond. One specific opportunity to speak of is NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center, and the influence it has had on me as a graduate student, a scientist and a person. I hope this story emphasizes the importance of programs such as this one, and inspires the pursuit to find innovative ways to continue bringing people of difference backgrounds and journeys together.
5:00PM Best Practices in Achieving Organizational Diversity and Inclusion in the Fisheries Community
  Melanie Okoro
Recent initiatives in the private and public sector have highlighted the importance and value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace to help organizations attract top talent and drive statutory missions. Organizations, educational institutions, and other entities are investing in ways to better serve their team members and constituents from all segments of society and focus on fairness, diversity, and inclusion. Challenging topics for discussion include gender bias, harassment, recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups, and organizational change leadership. We examine organizations who have created communities of practice that achieve and value workforce diversity and inclusion. We provide information on organizations who have successfully developed and employed best practice strategies, policies, plans and actions for implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. Finally, we provide lessons learned from organizations who have accepted the challenge and been successful in meeting their statutory missions and goals. Not a one size fits all model, best practices for achieving organizational diversity and inclusion may not squarely fit across all sectors. However, for the current and future fisheries community this means leading the charge to implement diversity and inclusion best practices that align with and benefit the fisheries community as a whole.
5:20PM Panel Discussion

Organizers: April Croxton, Shivonne Nesbit

Location: Reno-Sparks CC Date: September 30, 2019 Time: 8:00 am - 5:40 pm