GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 243-9
Presentation Time: 4:05 PM


STOVALL, Wendy1, BARNHART, Katherine2, DAMBY, David E.3, ELLIS, Andria P.4, HAIDER, Saira5, MISELIS, Jennifer6, MORAN, Seth7, MORRISS, Matthew8, PHILLIPS, Stephen9, PUTMAN, Annie8, REITMAN, Nadine10, SNOW, Eleanour11 and WAITE, William12, (1)U.S. Geological Survey, Volcano Science Center, Vancouver, WA 98683, (2)Geologic Hazards Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 966, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, (3)U.S. Geological Survey, Volcano Science Center, Menlo Park, CA 94025, (4)U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Hilo, HI 96721, (5)U.S. Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, Davie, FL 33314, (6)U.S. Geological Survey, St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, 600 4th St. S, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701, (7)U.S. Geological Survey, Cascades Volcano Observatory, 1300 SE Cardinal Ct Bldg 10, Vancouver, WA 98683-0000, (8)U.S. Geological Survey, Utah Water Science Center, Salt Lake City, UT 84119, (9)U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, Woods Hole, MA 02543, (10)U.S. Geological Survey, Geologic Hazards Science Center, Box 25046, MS 966, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, (11)U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Science Quality and Integrity, 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS911, Reston, VA 20192-0001, (12)US Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS911, Reston, VA 20192-0001

Amidst the civil unrest and broad national dialogue about social justice during the summer of 2020, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began to examine anew diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues in our workforce. This led to strong participation in the NSF sponsored Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE) project with 123 USGS employees (1.5% of the USGS workforce) participating through 6 independently organized pods. In the last 40 to 50 years, the USGS has tried several times to address deficiencies in accessibility and DEI. These efforts yielded demonstrable employment gains for white women in some job classifications, but racial and ethnic diversity grew very little. For example, as of March 2021, about 16% of the USGS workforce (8% of STEM employees) identify as Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color (BIPOC) compared to 40% of the U.S. population. These contrasts reflect harmful racial and other biases and inequities in both geoscience and USGS employment practices, and they motivated grassroots USGS participation in URGE.

The URGE curriculum facilitated interrogation of existing USGS policies, evaluation of policy application across the agency, and strategic brainstorming to align systemic changes with the goal of doing work in an inclusive way for all underrepresented groups. We identified challenges and opportunities associated with implementing anti-racist and other anti-discriminatory initiatives within the federal government. Key USGS challenges include making meaningful changes to external federal policies that affect BIPOC recruitment and retention, implementing solutions that continue through administrative transitions, and enacting accountable DEI policies that accommodate various business models across the USGS. Benefits include independently implementing change on a variety of scales, ranging from the individual (e.g., bias awareness) through project and Science Center levels (e.g., establishing norms for inclusivity and personal safety) and into USGS-wide activities (e.g., choosing hiring and retention practices that remove barriers to BIPOC and other under-represented persons). Initial and ongoing management support for URGE participation and initiatives provides critical scaffolding for actionable policy changes that will lead to inclusive, diverse, and equitable workplaces.