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Viral Hashtag Highlights Disparities in Academia, Healthcare

#BlackInTheIvory is offering an outlet for some Black scientists to share their experiences.


It's critical to hear the experiences of Black scientists and academics as one facet of workplace and societal equality efforts (to be clear, there are many facets). To view tweets with personal stories, check out Twitter for #BlackInTheIvory, which refers to the “ivory tower” of academia (click here).

In a recent Nature article, Nidhi Subbaraman spoke to the viral hashtag’s founders, Dr. Shardé Davis and Joy Melody Woods—assistant professor at UCONN and PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin, respectively—about how the hashtag began, the fear of repercussions, and more. View the article here.

The stories shared are not an exhaustive list. Dr. Neil Lewis, Jr. is an assistant professor of communication and social behavior at Cornell University with a joint appointment in the Weill Cornell Medical College Division of General Internal Medicine. In a Jun. 8, 2020 tweet, he noted, “Another important point. What you're reading in #BlackintheIvory has 2 ‘filters’ that suggest the situation may be even worse than it appears: (1) survivor bias- you're seeing the people who stayed, and (2) publication bias- the stories that feel safe enough to share publicly.”

A few ways to support in the short term

Mya Roberson, MSPH, is a fifth year PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, applying epidemiology methods to health services research and health equity in cancer using big data. She offered the following tweets, “For academics (especially White academics, but this goes for everyone) reading #BlackintheIvory and wondering how you can support Black students and academics here is a thread of things to consider a number which have been especially supportive of my own professional development.

1. Stand up for Black voices in the moment especially when they are pushing back against a norm. Emailing or approaching after the fact saying "I really appreciate what you said/how you called XYZ out" isn't helpful. Silent agreement doesn't change culture 

2. Introduce them to your network! At your institution, at conferences, at places they express interest in possibly working. Having mentors organically say "Hey let me introduce you to my colleague..." without me having to ask has opened so many doors 

3. Invite them to collaborate for authorship. Ex of this for me, "Could I adapt your code from something similar you did & have you on as an author" or "I know you did a lit review/have knowledge on this topic & could contribute to intro and discussion sections" 

4.Invite them to speak about their work! In guest lectures, in seminars, on panels. If you have a role coordinating any sort of speaker series do an audit of who you have historically asked. Many of us may not have completed our degrees yet but we are experts too 

5. Really reflect on patterns in any hiring or admissions roles you have. Much of the "weeding out" may not be overt. Are applicants from all types of institutions being considered equally? 

6. Compensate folks for time they spend on DEI initiatives for your department/institution. CV lines from the activity itself do not count as currency. 

Last Note: I am glad that so many have found this thread useful and have shared widely. I think it's important to explicitly state this is by no means an exhaustive list of how to support Black colleagues, but rather a start of concrete steps anyone can start doing immediately.”

[Editor's note:  Each of the six tweets included #BlackintheIvory at the end—no other editorial changes were made to the tweets posted here.]

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