As I write this, I'm excited to know the future of the American Nuclear Society will involve the activities and efforts of the newly formed Diversity and Inclusion in ANS (DIA) Committee. The DIA Committee was formed after the 2018 Annual Meeting by expanding the Professional Women in ANS (PWANS) committee with the inclusion of Nuclear Pride, a LGBTQA+ nuclear organization. It is dedicated to giving a voice to all underrepresented and marginalized groups within ANS, including, but not limited to, women, persons of color, the LGBTQA+ community, and people with disabilities. This new committee is the result of the combined efforts of several people over several years to ensure all of these groups, named and not named, have a voice.
Even though DIA is new, it will be taking up the mantle of a large set of activities previously organized or managed by PWANS and Nuclear Pride. One of these activities is the travel grants for students which the PWANS committee provided through funding from the NEED Committee to help female students attend and participate in ANS national meetings. This program has served students within the Society for at least 17-18 years that includes national members that are currently in or have held ANS leadership positions. I say 17-18 years because that's the earliest set of PWANS minutes I could find that mention the program... so don't let anyone tell you taking minutes isn't an important role. And if you don't believe me, I hope you'll believe one of the past awardees.
"For this summer ANS meeting in Anaheim PWANS committee granted me the travel award which enabled me to get a true picture of the challenges such as regulations, designs, licenses, construction, that the nuclear industry faces as it comes on the 'main street'. The experience gained both during the sessions and as I interacted with the engineers, policy-makers from the regulatory bodies, academia, national labs and industry was invaluable. During the course of my studies I have participated in internships in the U.S and abroad, however, an opportunity such as this has helped me take the practical knowledge gained from these experiences and transform it into a tool that I can use to better advance my career and serve the community. It has also made me realize that the challenges we face in the nuclear industry do not belong to a country but is global and the solutions to these problems can be only solved by a healthy global mutual interdependence. I am very thankful to PWANS for granting me this opportunity." - Written back in or around 2008-2009 by Dr. Shikha Prasad, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University and restated here with permission.
Another set of activities hosted by PWANS and Nuclear Pride that DIA will continue are the panels focused on diversity and inclusion efforts. The earliest panel hosted by PWANS that I could find was held at the 2006 Winter Meeting titled "Diversity in the Workplace" focusing on
- advice for women and underrepresented persons to move up into higher levels of management within their organization (companies, laboratories, and universities) and
- past examples of successful women and underrepresented persons that have handled situations where they were not taken seriously.
The latest diversity panels organized by either of the two groups were held at the 2018 Student Conference hosted by the University of Florida Student Section. The first panel: Perspectives from Women in Engineering, was sponsored by Dominion Energy. This panel involved panelists from the industry, national laboratories, and academia to discuss their backgrounds and their path to their current careers as women in the nuclear field. The second panel: Harnessing Diversity in Nuclear Organizations, had panelists from industry and academia to discuss how having teams with persons of diverse backgrounds and perspectives helps solve technical challenges. Each panelist also provided their views on how to strengthen diversity efforts within the nuclear community.
These weren't the last panels on diversity & inclusion, although the last panel of 2018 titled "Focus on Communications - Diversity in Organization" was sponsored by the Education, Training, and Workforce Development Division at the 2018 Winter Meeting. It focused on how diversity improves organizational performance and each panelist's own experiences related to situations involving the panel topic. Afterwards, one of the panelist provided the best summary of future organizational Diversity & Inclusion initiatives:
"Diversity has to be about more than hiring people of color, or women, or LGBTQ. It has to be about engaging with those folks. If nothing changes with the hiring of that diverse work force, then the exercise was wasted and the organization will not see any benefit in diversity." - Margaret Harding, President at 4 Factor Consulting, LLC and restated here with their permission.
Lastly, the DIA Committee will continue to host the Diversity & Inclusion Socials at ANS national meetings. These have been quite popular over the last several meetings and have turned out to be quite the shindig with high attendance. I've found these to be a great way to help show meeting attendees that we are building a supportive and inclusive Society and to see that other members support it was well. The Committee intends to continue these socials and will add to each one a unique workshop to assist the community in being more inclusive.
Lastly as a representative of DIA, I wanted to thank everyone who have served on the PWANS committee, Nuclear Pride organization, and assisted with the formation of this new committee. The realization of this committee involved too many people to mention, but you know who you are. With your help, and that of the ANS Board of Directors, this Committee will be able to drive ANS towards an inclusive future.
If you or your organization has interest in participating on or supporting the DIA Committee, please contact us through the website. We'd love to have more members join support our current and future activities.