GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 159-6
Presentation Time: 9:35 AM


ASHLEY, Gail M., Earth and Planetary Sciences, Rutgers University, 610 Taylor Road, Piscataway, NJ 08554 and GATES, Alexander E., Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, 101 Warren St, Smith Hall Room 136, Newark, NJ 07102

Despite numerous efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the geosciences, the field remains poor in both, except for gender. Women now make up ~40% of scientists and even outnumber men in some areas. Lessons learned from increasing the participation of women in geosciences might be instructive to address other less successful areas. In addition to URM groups, potential non-traditional students include military, adult learners, students with disabilities, religious minorities and first-generation students. Most of these “non-mainstream” students begin in two-year colleges. However, STEM-oriented students primarily gravitate to curricula in medicine, engineering and information technology rather than geosciences. The reasons that recruitment is difficult are: 1) Lack of exposure to geology: < 40 % of high schools and < 25% of the 23 two-year colleges in NJ offer Earth Science courses. 2) Lack of exposure to the environment. Increasing numbers of students are from urban areas with little exposure to the natural world. 3) Lack of a critical mass of diverse individuals, thus role models and mentors are wanting. 4) As essentially pioneers, non-traditional students have no “visual pathway” to success. Without knowing the next step, it is easy to give up. Ultimately, these students can become uneasy about their choice because the field doesn’t feel friendly. They suffer from “imposter syndrome” and feel like “token hires,” both of which lead to low retention.

In order to overcome this, geoscientists must put themselves in other people’s shoes and understand how it feels to not be part of a group. Success is an uphill battle unless the student is unusually assertive. Unfortunately, there is no single solution. Each person is their own special case and requires one-on-one mentoring. It worked to increase the participation of women in geosciences. Improvement of inclusion and diversity in the geosciences will be most successful when mentored one person at a time.