ADVANCING DIVERSITY, EQUITY, ACCESSIBILITY, AND INCLUSION AT THE SMITHSONIAN’S NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: UNIQUE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
The Smithsonian’s combination of exhibits/outreach, research and collection activities affords an outstanding opportunity (and duty) to inspire and educate young people of diverse backgrounds and to facilitate career paths in the geosciences. At NMNH, we can directly increase workforce diversity at critical points early in students’ careers via high school and undergraduate internships. This includes the Natural History Research Experiences (NHRE) program, which is a 10-week internship that includes housing and a stipend for successful applicants. We are also in a position to lead the decolonization of geological collections and incorporate Indigenous knowledge into our collections information.
NMNH’s federal agency status also present unique challenges. Several steps that could bring positive change are presently difficult to implement because of federal policies. This includes tracking institutional progress toward diversity (Estrada et al., 2016), changing hiring/evaluation rubrics and instituting equity checks (Posselt, 2016), targeted hires, and incorporating demographic data into hiring decisions.
Current activities being undertaken at NMNH to increase equity, inclusivity, and diversity include the ongoing evaluation of the onboarding process for new hires, and our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Council, which was established in 2019 as an advisory board to the NMNH executive team. This presentation is the result of work and discussions between 28 members of the NMNH geoscience community.