We Stand Together Against Systemic Racism

June 2, 2020

For many years, the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) has focused on breaking down the systemic barriers that limit the advancement, equity and participation of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Today, as we confront repeated acts of racial violence throughout our nation, AWIS doesn’t see our work as separate from this struggle. We acknowledge and stand against systemic racism, and we encourage those who share our commitment to join us in working against it.

In a recent statement, former President Barack Obama observed that, “It’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ – whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.”

We recognize that women of color in STEM, and Black women in particular, carry the burden of racism in everyday life as well as within workplaces and educational settings. It is critical that we as a STEM organization recognize their experiences and do not let them stand alone. By being silent, or proceeding as if it’s ‘business as usual,’ we are only perpetuating the harm of systemic racism.

The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah explained that we all sign a “social contract” in order to maintain order in a society that would otherwise be chaotic. “Society is a contract that we sign as human beings with each other,” he said. “Whether spoken or unspoken, we agree in this group to common rules, common ideals, and common practices that are going to define us as a group… And the contract is only as strong as the people who abide by it.”

Similarly, there is much work to be done in professional communities, in addition to societal ones.

At AWIS, we reaffirm our commitment to fostering an equitable and inclusive scientific enterprise, which includes confronting racism. We encourage those in the scientific community, wherever they are, to take a stand against racism however they can. Be an active bystander. Foster change within the workplace by applying your professional influence to diverse and inclusive hiring practices. Participate in making space for new approaches and ideas. There are myriad ways to take on this work, but it is all of our responsibility to do so.

In the weeks ahead, we will continue to share ideas and resources for your active participation in our shared future.

Yours in Science, and Social Justice,

Susan R. Windham-Bannister's signature

Susan R. Windham-Bannister, PhD
President & Chair of the Board
Association for Women in Science

Sandra W. Robert, CAE
Chief Executive Officer
Association for Women in Science