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Berkeley Lab announces initiative to increase diversity

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OCTOBER 28, 2014

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory announced an initiative Monday to increase diversity and inclusion in its workforce in response to recent data showing that women and minorities have not made significant gains at the lab during the last decade.

The lab will create a committee to lead the initiative, according to Berkeley Lab spokesperson Julie Chao. The initiative will focus on addressing implicit bias in hiring, improving family-friendly policies and increasing outreach to the underrepresented groups.

“When you have more diverse teams, it makes for better outcomes in science and in other areas,” Chao said.

In a Berkeley Lab statement, Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos said that lab does not want to overlook underrepresented minorities and that increasing diversity will improve the lab by “attracting the best and the brightest and making them feel welcome and part of the team.”

The Berkeley lab’s slow progress in increasing diversity is in line with that of science, technology, engineering and math fields throughout the United States, Alivisatos said in the statement. He added that much of the problem begins early in students’ science careers and that diversity decreases as students advance in their studies.

According to the lab’s workforce data for this year, underrepresented minorities — defined as blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans — make up about 4 percent of research scientists and engineers and 13 percent of all staff. The numbers for women are approximately 16 and 33 percent, respectively.

Minorities also represent about 6 percent of the postdoctoral scientists and 9 percent of the informational, mechanical and electrical engineers. Women make up about 27 percent and 22 percent of the same categories.

Chao said this initiative will increase the attention given to issues of diversity and inclusion and make them “more institutionalized.”

As part of the initiative, committees in charge of hiring new scientists will receive training on how to tackle implicit bias, which refers to unconscious inclinations toward people based on gender or race.

The lab plans to evaluate its family-friendly policies such as benefits for new parents and pregnant women to determine whether to increase such policies. It also plans to conduct outreach targeting college students from underrepresented demographics.

Focus groups around the lab have also been asked about their thoughts and concerns on the issue of diversity, Chao added.

Tony Baylis, director of strategic diversity programs at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said that his lab’s diversity statistics are similar to those of the Berkeley lab and that outreach to students is also a priority. He added that the Livermore and Berkeley labs are partnered in tackling these goals.

“We want to add value to our team by utilizing all the demographics, and (we) consider diversity as an essential part of creativity,” Baylis said. “Diversity doesn’t just mean race. We want to bring together diverse talents to (better) solve complicated problems.”

Corrections: A previous version of this article stated that the Berkeley Lab plans to implement more family-friendly policies. In fact, the lab will evaluate the family-friendly policies that already exist and then determine whether to add more.
Contact Frances Fitzgerald at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @f_fitzgerald325.
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OCTOBER 29, 2014


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