Explore the Academy's efforts to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in our offices, on the museum floor, and everywhere we do science.
Since last summer, the Academy has been deeply engaged in developing an effective, comprehensive, and ongoing action plan to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism at the Academy.
We believe firmly that the Academy cannot be successful in regenerating the natural world unless we foster a healthy, regenerative environment—and we remain committed that this work must start in our own house.
At the start of 2021, the Academy welcomed The Mosaic Collaborative (TMC) on board as consultants and partners in guiding our work to understand and identify the needs and opportunities within our institution, build a measurable action plan for integrating DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access) into all facets of the Academy’s culture and strategy, and scale up how we measure progress, set meaningful goals, and ensure accountability as part of this critical, multi-year work.
Beginning this past summer, TMC has held monthly workshops with staff addressing issues that help foster a deeper understanding and dialogue around complex societal and cultural concepts. Learn more about the Academy staff workshops here.
From February through July of this year, TMC worked with staff and volunteers from across the Academy on an organization-wide listening tour. This comprehensive process, including an array of listening sessions and a comprehensive survey, was designed to capture candid and anonymous input from staff and volunteers across all levels, departments, roles, and tenures.
This listening tour included many personal perspectives, opinions, and experiences bravely and openly shared by Academy staff, and several themes emerged that demonstrate that this critical work must start internally. While some of the feedback and findings outlined in TMC’s report are difficult, they are reflective of the challenging conversations that must take place in order to make meaningful progress—and we will not shy away from these conversations and the actions necessary to correct them.
- All staff interviewed expressed a desire for increasing staff diversity and equity, together with inclusion of marginalized groups such as BIMPOC (Black, Indigenous, Mixed-race People of Color), transgender and gender nonconforming people, and people who are immigrants.
- Many staff members expressed a desire for change in our organizational culture and policies, with increased attention to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility at almost every level—recruiting, hiring, retention, grievance, follow-through, promotion, and furloughs.
- Staff frequently referenced challenges like excessive hierarchy, siloed departments, a culture of secrecy and fear, and discrimination and harassment in the workplace. At the Academy, we have zero tolerance for any form of discrimination or harassment. All complaints are investigated thoroughly and brought to resolution. The process for reporting a complaint or concern will continue to be re-communicated to staff and volunteers regularly, to ensure all staff are aware of how to report and escalate a concern.
- Several also expressed a feeling that DEIA efforts until very recently have been performative. Others argued that the Academy is rooted in a White supremacist culture, and is not inviting or equitable towards people of all identity markers. Several staff members explicitly called out such behaviors as gatekeeping, hoarding power, punitive practices, paternalism, defensiveness, dismissiveness, deceitfulness, abuse, and gaslighting, and expressed extreme fear of retaliation.
- Several expressed their belief that a fair, equitable, and accessible future for the Academy lies in organizational restructuring, training at every level, and a commitment from senior staff.
How we’re currently working to become a more equitable, diverse, and anti-racist institution and address feedback received from staff during TMC’s listening tour:
- TMC has recommended additional elements to help the Academy understand White supremacy culture and how that affects equity and inclusion. Our consultants will hold additional staff workshops around White supremacy culture and the history of colonialism in museums. Additionally, TMC has begun conducting collaborative coaching sessions with the Academy leadership ranging from departmental directors to the executive director, focused on organizational culture and responsive leadership, leveraging these opportunities to facilitate key institutional changes with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- As a leading scientific institution, the Academy is committed to cultivating an inclusive environment to conduct, share, and champion diversity in science for staff, visitors, and the global community. Read the statement drafted by scientists within our Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability (IBSS), along with commitments they’ve made to work towards equitable, actively anti-racist science at the Academy—and within the scientific community—now and in the future. This important work has already begun and progress updates will be shared regularly on our website.
- To ensure accountability and transparency, the Academy has begun sharing annual staff demographics with staff and the public to measure progress toward our commitment to increasing diversity and representation at all levels of staffing across the institution. Self-reported staff demographics from January 2021 can be found here.
- Increasing visibility of LGBTQ+, women and gender minorities of color working in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math, medicine) is crucial to creating a welcoming and equitable space for science. In June 2021, we opened New Science, an exhibit showcasing first-person stories of queer and intersectional identities revolutionizing how science gets done. Beyond the Academy’s doors, this customizable exhibit has been made available for free to other institutions to easily and inexpensively recreate and display, allowing them to showcase the stories that resonate most with their audiences.
- Academy leadership will begin addressing TMC’s recommendations around HR policies, recruiting practices, performance management, career growth, and grievance resolution that were highlighted in their HR assessment report. And we’ll be working with TMC in the coming months to develop a long-term plan that addresses all of these issues comprehensively.
- In order to ensure Academy staff feel empowered to share their opinions and perspectives in a safe environment, the Academy’s Non-Retaliation Policy exists to ensure employees can have honest, open dialogue in all areas of their work.
This is just the beginning of our ongoing work to become a truly equitable, diverse, and anti-racist institution.
As we make progress in the months and years ahead, we look forward to engaging staff, volunteers, and the Academy community as partners in this critical work. Please stay tuned for updates here.