Executive Committee members’ personal reflections on the Consortium’s equity mission, intersection of sexism and racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement

June 12, 2020

Dear Members of the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM,

In recent weeks, many societies that are members of the Societies Consortium have issued statements of solidarity with Black people in America and outrage over savage and shameful racism in America. As the individuals serving on the Consortium’s Executive Committee, we are writing to Consortium Members to share our own personal reflections about the connection between the Black Lives Matter movement and the mission, values and work of the Consortium. From the start, the Societies Consortium’s mission recognized the double bind of harassment, assault and diminished opportunity that women of color and people of color who identify as LGBTQ+ experience in our fields. We recognized the imperative to address that intersectionality’s effect. Now, two pandemics—Covid-19 and racist violence—have converged to shine a bright light on the continuing systematic and brutal infliction of harm and murder of Black Americans, including recently and gruesomely, George Floyd, who was laid to rest this week. This convergence also has revealed the inequities, large and small, that are meted out every day in society and in STEMM fields, crushing the lives and promise of Black people, other people of color, and Indigenous people, with amplified effect on women and people identifying as LGBTQ+. This is a time when failure to speak up and do more is complicity.

Systemic racism against Black people and white privilege began in America 401 years ago with slavery, and supported the growth of the American economy, institutions of higher education, and religious institutions, among others, for centuries. A system this entrenched, intersecting with longstanding structural sexism (broadly defined), will take a long time to change. We are all responsible—even if all we have done is passively benefit from the privilege of not being burdened by racism on top of other challenges of life. Statements of outrage and protest marches are important, but they aren’t enough.

As a collective leadership initiative of 127 academic and professional disciplinary societies in STEMM fields, founded to advance reimagined fields where all talent can thrive and contribute, our core mission is to fight inequity and advance excellence and integrity. We recognize that doing so is essential for public trust and excellence in STEMM fields, whose contributions the world needs now, more than ever.

The fact that your society is a member of the Societies Consortium means that you have already committed to assuming the role that only professional societies have, as standards setters and standard bearers for your fields. You are taking a stand; and we must listen to you so the Consortium can act to support your efforts. With each society at different stages of aspiration and action, you are working to change inadequate and inequitable policies, practices, and customs that affect awards, meetings, fieldwork, expected conduct in other activities, and more. Each member of the Consortium—and each of us as an individual representing a member society—can help eliminate sexual, racial and other intersecting bases of harassment in STEMM by taking these actions and building inclusive communities. Your collective voice, when backed by action, is powerful.

Now is the time for all of us to look in the mirror and decide. What more am I going to do? What more is my society going to do? And what more can we do together? Let’s renew our commitment through action and by supporting each other and all of our colleagues in this critical work.

David Acosta, Marc Beebe, Andrew Black, Mary Kirchhoff, Felice Levine, Shirley Malcom, Ross McKinney, Monica Plisch, Erika Shugart, Chris Stelzig, Billy Williams