Blog Health Equity

Why does diversity matter in STEM research?

Written by Tobi Okopie, BS candidate, Georgetown University and participant in the 2019 Institute for Public Health Summer Research ProgramPublic & Global Health Track

On June 4th, Assistant Provost of Diversity Initiatives, Rochelle Smith, challenged us to define the terms we so often use to combat the injustices inherent in the American educational system. She began by asking us how we define diversity. This question, though seemingly simple, required me to spend a serious moment in consideration. What do I understand diversity to be?

“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to live without.”

-William Sloane Coffin Jr.

She followed this with similar questions about equity and inclusion. Dumbfounded, I realized that many times we get so caught up in the lingo of action that we forget the foundation, or root of these words. She then guided us in group discussion only to help us see that all three of
these terms are not only interconnected, but have definitions that need to be made clear before efforts to promote them can be made.

Graphic credit:  Interaction Institute for Social Change, Artist: Angus Maguire

She continued to challenge our viewpoints when she probed us with a question from Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. She gave us time to ponder an answer while we listened to a TedX talk from CSU professor, Micheal Gavin. I sat there attempting to generate a long list of reasons, but after listening to the talk, I understood that the answer to the question was the least
important. Instead, what truly mattered was breaking down the stereotypes of mal-equipped minority students and uplifting the idea that these students are capable, brilliant, and their diverse viewpoints bring advantages to every and all fields.

All in all, Assistant Provost Smith’s talk on diversity, equity, and inclusion reminded us of the importance of both celebrating and incorporating diversity into STEM.