New Faculty Development Day… commitment to a diverse workplace

The new faculty development day seminars yesterday were largely centered around getting us new faculty to know our new colleagues, helping us navigate the administration of the Uni and telling us about programs that the various Deans are particularly proud of. One thing caught my eye right off the bat. The new faculty around here are much more diverse than I would have ever expected. This makes me happy. It also makes me proud of my choice in workplaces. More than half of the new faculty that showed up were female. There were also many Hispanics and African-Americans. All of this is a GoodThing; however, I feel strongly that it isn’t enough to just hire a diverse group of faculty at an institution, the institution must also make a strong commitment to career development for people that historically have been far under-represented in the biomedical sciences.

To my great pleasure, about halfway through the program another Dean got up and spent some time going over programs that the institution has implemented to make sure that this Uni will be successful in retaining this pool of talented people and in helping them develop their talents as to maximize their career potential. Let’s start with programs for female faculty members. There are several organizations on campus for female faculty that are in place to address their needs. In this cadre of programs, a few caught my eye as being especially innovative.

1) Career Development Lunches. There is a weekly lunch meeting for career development and mentorship of female faculty. While the meeting is set up largely to advance the careers of faculty, students and postdocs are also welcome to attend. This is really fantastic! The earlier young female scientists can receive mentorship from their more senior colleagues the better. You better believe that I’ll be encouraging my female trainees to get to that lunch meeting early and often.

2) Day Care Programs. Taking care of the kiddos is tough stuff and if Unis want to get serious about retaining their talent pool they better do something about this to make life easier for faculty with really junior colleagues. I won’t go into detail on all the programs for day care etc., around here but let’s just say color me impressed.

3) Zero Tolerance Abuse Policies. Want to be a misogynist? Better not do it on campus because it will not be tolerated. Good, it shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere but it is nice to know that the administration is serious about it. I knew this already though because there are signs up all over the Hospital that abuse will not be tolerated here.

4) The Bad Side. Maternity leave programs that go beyond the pitiful maternity leave that faculty are allowed by the state were absent from the talks. Perhaps they exist but I haven’t heard of them yet. So, on this count, shame on you Uni! Gotta do better on this front.

So what about programs for under-represented minorities? This list is not as extensive as the programs for women; however, there are some good ones.

1) First off the Uni supports a number of organizations that strive to advance the careers of people from minority backgrounds. Obviously, this is important because it is another opportunity to find mentors that can help advance careers. Moreover, these organizations are also open to trainees, as they should be, and, again, I will be encouraging my trainees to get to these meetings.

2) There are a number of funding opportunities available for minorities at NIH and other agencies. A representative from the research grants office noted this and made it clear that they are fully prepared to help faculty pursue these funding opportunities as they get their careers off the ground.

3) Zero tolerance for abuse also means zero tolerance for racism, as it should be.

So, what did all this do for me? First off, it tells me that my Uni is serious about continuing to be a leader in research and medical education. The most talented people come from both genders and from all ethnic backgrounds. I am proud to know that my Uni is prepared to recruit from the greatest possible pool of talent and is serious about retaining them once they are here. Second, it tells me that the institution is serious about mentorship and recognizes that mentorship can never be provided by a single person. The institution also recognizes that historical obstacles for career advancement for women and minorities are not, unfortunately, a thing of the past. Programs that combat this continuing problem benefit every single person at the university (whether they know it or not). Third, on a personal note, it reinforced my decision to come here and it made me especially proud of my choice. Fourth, I recognize that I cannot meet all the mentoring needs of my trainees. The knowledge imparted to me at these sessions will get passed onto my trainees so that they can get as involved as they want in organizations that are set up to help them find new and exciting mentors. Finally, I know that I have a duty to make my workplace a friendly and welcoming place for people from all backgrounds and now I know where to go to get involved in issues about diversity that I would like to dedicate my time to.

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