At NAFEMS, we are fully committed to building an increasingly diverse community and we want everyone to be treated fairly and with respect. By valuing individuality and identity, we develop a sense of belonging and give engineering the best chance of becoming more ethical and more productive.
To sum it up in just a few words: it's nice to be nice!
When technology is designed largely by a certain set of engineers, it reflects their concerns. Numerous examples of why this is an issue are listed in the books 'Invisible Women' by Caroline Criado Perez and 'Algorithms of Oppression' by Safiya Noble. It has also been recently highlighted that some Artificial Intelligence systems misidentified ethnic minorities 10-100 times more often than white people. These AI systems could also detect and label people according to gender or sexuality. If used in state-run AI surveillance systems, this could be very dangerous for LGBT+ communities in countries where same-sex love is still a crime.
So what responsibility do engineers have for the problems they tackle and the technologies they create? We do not have an answer for that. However, having a diverse viewpoint helps us see where our individual blind spots are. I'm repeating myself, but this bears repeating, diversity and inclusion represent the best chance of making engineering more ethical and more productive.
So why do we want to set up a diversity and inclusion community? We want to make everyone feel welcomed and valued, but we don't currently have a process to guide us.
We have had over 10 official open meetings on Diversity and Inclusion over the past few years. We started them informally during the 2019 NAFEMS World Congress and then recurring open meetings began at the beginning of 2020. During these meetings, I shared the work we have been doing internally. In return, attendees shared a lot of surprising and frustrating anecdotes, facts and encounters.
We also received a lot of feedback ranging from:
To wanting to see:
So this is where YOU come in! ?
Having a formal group dedicated to Diversity and Inclusion will give us time, resources, and accountability around our initiatives.
We now need to have a concrete set of goals and steps to further support an internal and external diversity & inclusion strategy.
We are looking for people from all backgrounds regardless of age, seniority, sexual orientation or identity, religion, socio-economic background, disability, ethnicity, gender, parental status...etc. Knowledge of, or just enthusiasm for, Diversity and Inclusion is essential to join this committee!
Having a balanced viewpoint will help us see where our individual blind spots are.
If you are interested, please drop me an email at olivia.bugaj @ nafems.org or fill in the form below: