Diversity StatementThis is a brief statement about my thoughts about the benefits of diversity (and also the impact of not having adequate diversity), and in particular how these issues present themselves in academia.
Ahead of everything else, though, I fully support Black Lives Matter, and I am committed to addressing racism here at UIUC, in academia, and in this country. This is a big reason of why I am committed to diversity.
Diversity in academiaThe academic community is in many ways tremendously diverse, with faculty and students from all over the world. This may be especially true in Computer Science, with the large number of people from all over Asia and Europe. This diversity means that we (students and faculty) are constantly learning about life outside from the USA.
And yet we have extremely low levels of other types of diversity in CS. All of us women have had the experience of being the only woman in a group of 20 or more men. Or teaching an advanced course where there are only 2-3 women in a group of 50 students. Or being at a conference where all the invited speakers are men. This is surprisingly common, and often not even noticed. We have even lower levels of diversity in terms of people of color. Although most of us don't realize it, this impacts how we respond to the people we meet.
Consequences of low diversityWhat are the consequences of this low diversity? First, it can be uncomfortable for people to join a group (department, program, etc.) where they are the only person in their group (or even where there are others in their group, but not enough). Being aware of yourself as an outsider is not pleasant (and if you haven't had that experience, it can be enlightening). Thus, low diversity can lead to even lower diversity.
Second, talented people are valuable, and anything that discourages people from participating is a loss.
Third, in my personal opinion, environments that are more diverse are simply more fun, more stimulating, and help all of us to expand in understanding on multiple levels (socially, politically, and scientifically).
What can we do?There are multiple things we can do.
There are often many valid reasons given for why environments are not diverse, including the need for hiring in particular areas, the difficulty of competing for the best women and minorities, etc. All of these reasons are likely valid. On the other hand, sometimes diversity can be improved without tremendous (or important) changes to protocols. Sometimes a small amount of attention can be sufficient to make a difference (e.g., in graduate student admissions).
My diversity activities