Diversifying the Geosciences

There’s a pretty terrible fact about the geosciences: degrees and careers are overwhelmingly got by white people. Go look at these stats. Look at the fact that in America, in 2010, just 1% of the people employed in earth science careers were black. One. Percent.

No group other than whites made it past the single digits. Not one.

We’ve got to do better than this. And we can, even us pasty-pale folk such as myself. We can amplify the voices of geoscientists of color. We can work with minority students to bring more of them into the STEM fold. We can fund scholarships. We can ask minority students what they need us to do, and do it. We can listen to our professionals of color. We can make our spaces welcoming to people of color. We can start right now by visiting Black Geoscientists, and taking their suggestions to heart.

Image shows a diamond outline with a blue rockhammer drawing on a black background. Beneath it is the url BlackGeoscientists.com
Image from the excellent Black Geoscientists blog.

BlackGeoscientists.com is here to start a conversation among everyone. And we mean everyone. Diversity is an integral part of progress for all.

As a geoscientist haven’t you wondered why it’s 2014 and most people still confuse geology with archaeology? Aren’t you tired of the same old stereotype of ‘rocks for jocks’? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Nobel Prize in Geosciences? For geosciences to have that level of impact on mankind?

Diversity isn’t needed for greatness to occur; but society as a whole does need to see value in something in order for it to fund more research. And the fact is our society is changing to a blacker and browner society. Minorities (and women) need to be engaged in order for science to grow. With our national initiatives to diversify STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), we have seen unexpected progress. For example, engaging girls in STEM has lead to an unexpected expansion of toys that engage ALL kids in STEM.

Fantastic! Let’s do more. For instance, we can take a hard look at our most important annual meetings, and determine how they can be more diverse. Part of that starts with considering the cities those meetings are held in.

The Geological Society of America (GSA) is a major center point for many geologists. Their regional and annual conferences are a great way to network and learn about new research. Everyone who’s anyone goes to GSA Conferences at some point in their career.  I have been a member since 1998 and have attended and presented at several annual conferences. I look forward to a time where these conferences feel more inclusive.

The current makeup of geoscientists may not be representative of the total American population (78% white, 13% black, ref), but is GSA at least holding these conferences in “black-friendly” cities? In order to determine that, we first have to look at some basic American demography.

Prepare yourself before going to that link, cuz it ain’t pretty. The good news is, there’s a whole list of nice cities there which are more diverse, and should be popped on the planning list. And hey, at least this year’s GSA meeting is in Baltimore.

I know from long experience as a white person that being white makes it easy to be oblivious to the needs, challenges, and wants of people of color. I’ve learned that the best way to become less ignorant is to listen to people of color, because they know what needs, challenges, and wants they have, and they often know several ways to help meet those needs, overcome those challenges, and satisfy those wants. So follow @BlackGeoRocks on Twitter, read the Black Geoscientists blog, and keep your eye out for ways you can help make our amazing science more diverse.

Please leave links to your favorite geoscientists of color in the comments.

Diversifying the Geosciences

One thought on “Diversifying the Geosciences

  1. 1

    I am ashamed to say that I have no favorite black geoscientists. Although I love geology a lot. I hope that changes as I start following the Twitter account and the blog that you linked to!

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