I’ve discovered that I am a pretty horrible blogger. Instead of throwing my thoughts out into the marketplace of cyberideas, I overedit myself to the point of irrelevance. I’ve found that I’m too careful a writer to be good at posting frequent, insightful posts. Kudos to those of you out there who put out great posts with more frequency than I can usually manage.
Case in point: I’ve been working on this post for over a month! One of my presidential initiatives in 2020 is to explore – and hopefully implement – ways to diversify our Society’s membership. I am clearly not alone in this goal. Last January, I went to an APA-sponsored leadership retreat for incoming division leaders, and it seemed as though most, if not all, of the other divisions represented had the same goal. Some divisions were approaching their diversification efforts to attract younger/early career folks, and others were exploring attracting more diverse gender and race/ethnic representation. Diversity, widely defined, seems to be a recognized value for most of APA right now.
My struggle with this post is that I have been wrestling for some time now about how to use the word “diversity.” When I worked for a large, metropolitan school district in Alabama, we would talk about our “diverse” schools, but we were not really referring to those schools that had real diversity. The district has schools that range from 99% White to 99% Black, with almost every demographic breakdown in between. The 99% White school and the 99% Black school had the same problem – they were each not “diverse” in the true sense of the word. Yet, we spoke of the 99% Black school as our “diverse” school. We never referred to the majority White school as diverse. Using the word “diversity” in this way upholds a majority normative standard, and I don’t want to perpetuate that standard in my work. I’m working on better ways to talk about these issues.
Diversification efforts have been a goal for organizations like ours for a long time, yet we haven’t made the progress we all say we want. The psychology student population has been decidedly diverse for more than a decade, yet only 17% of psychology faculty identify as racial/ethnic minorities (APA Center for Workforce Studies, 2019). While women make up 56% of psychology faculty, women have outnumbered men in psychology graduate programs three to one for more than a decade (also from APA CWS). If we’ve been working on diversifying for this long, we should really be more frustrated that we haven’t figured out how to do it better than we do it. I know I have felt such frustration.
Often, diversity efforts become more about moving the metrics than truly creating spaces. Diversity efforts that merely move the metrics play diversity as a zero-sum game where room is made for some at the expense of others. Viewing diversity as a numbers game may explain why attempts generally fail to live up to the hype. If the spaces that we open up aren’t welcoming or empowering or supportive, the new people won’t stay in those spaces for very long. People who have been pushed out or aside to make the numbers work become resentful and often sabotage the work that’s been done.
In membership organizations like ours, we don’t have a finite number of membership slots to give out. We don’t have to push anyone aside or out the door to make room for new people. There aren’t a limited number of teaching ideas or resources to be had. We are only limited by our members’ capacity for ideas and work; if we need a bigger table to seat us all, let’s build it.
I am working with our membership and diversity committee chairs (Rita Obeid and Teceta Tormala) and their respective STP VPs (Meera Komarraju and Kelley Haynes-Mendez) for the last few months to discuss how to make room in STP. We are discussing not only ways to recruit new members, but also how to develop programming and resources people need. We are considering diversity needs related to where and who people teach. We are considering what people who teach about diversity need. We want to create spaces that allow people to be intersectional, affiliating with STP in all the ways they choose to identify. We are considering the types of funding the efforts will need. There is so much to consider to make sure the spaces are open, welcoming, empowering, and supportive.
I want to hear your thoughts about diversity in general and how to diversify what we do and who we serve in STP. Here’s a Google form to collect your thoughts.
Some questions asked include:
- What are some of the ways in which you identify as a teacher of psychology? Consider personal, contextual, relational, and pedagogical affiliations (or others I've not thought of!).
- If you could create your own sub-group (or groups) of STPers to connect with at a conference or develop programming and resources with and for, what would you create?
- In what ways - formal and informal - do you teach about diversity?
- Would you like for STP to explore creating programming and resources around teaching students who identify differently from you? If so, please consider telling me what types of programming/resources would be useful to you.
As always, comments are confidential. I will do my best to respond personally to anyone who provides contact information.
Thanks for this opportunity to serve you and your students.
Amy C. Fineburg, Ph.D.
STP President - 2020