Canadian thought leader to discuss EDI principles at DMSC guest lecture

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Embedding principles of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has become a priority for the education sector in recent years, a trend partially driven by the expectations of federal funding agencies and by the demands for increased accessibility, fairness and inclusion of underrepresented communities. While a full understanding of both EDI and sex- and gender-based analysis (SGBA) is now expected as a core competency within the research community, statistics show women, Indigenous peoples, members of visible minority/racialized groups, persons with disabilities and other underrepresented groups face systemic, structural, organizational and institutional barriers in academic science and medicine.

“We can look around our research community and see that there are subsets of humanity who are not participating in STEM—that people don’t have voices and aren’t able to contribute or lead research. So, we know that we are missing ideas, solutions, approaches, perspectives and more,” says Dr. Imogen Coe, a Canadian thought leader in the area of EDI in STEM. 

In her upcoming lecture hosted by the University Of Victoria’s Division of Medical Sciences (DMSC), titled “Embracing Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Canadian Post-Secondary System,” Dr. Coe will discuss EDI in the context of the post-secondary system, the recently launched NSERC program Dimensions: EDI Canada and global leading EDI practices.

“Talking about difficult things like racism, sexism and homophobia in the academy is something we need to get much better at,” she says. 

Without discussions like these, experiences ranging from minor slights, lack of respect and implicit bias, to bullying, harassment and assault will continue to occur all too frequently, says Leigh Anne Swayne, associate professor, DMSC, and member of the DMSC EDI Committee.

“For women and members of other commonly underrepresented groups who find relatively few role models and allies at the higher ranks, the excitement and wonder that is life in science can be diminished,” she says.

Swayne also says that this culture “perpetuates an academy that is astoundingly homogeneous.” Coe agrees, adding that there is a huge body of data that shows leveraging all available human talent leads to increased idea generation and enhanced innovation.

Coe says shifting attitudes and organizational cultures requires a systems approach with context-dependent interventions at various levels. This is the framework for the recently launched NSERC program Dimensions: EDI Canada, which Dr. Coe will discuss within the context of global leading EDI practices.

“I’m already seeing changes such as individual researchers thinking about how they run their labs, how they manage groups and how they recruit students. I think Dimensions will lead to a healthier, most robust and ultimately stronger research ecosystem, and in a world of volatility and unpredictability, we want to be sure we are not leaving any good ideas untested and any brilliant minds on the sidelines.”

Coe, who completed her graduate work at the University of Victoria, has advised academia, government and industry on best practices and approaches to improve EDI, and has contributed to national dialogue about these issues through various platforms. She is a coveted speaker and panelist and has received numerous awards for her EDI advocacy work.

In addition to her work with EDI, Coe is a professor of chemistry and biology at Ryerson University. She is also an affiliate scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, the vice-president of the Canadian Molecular Biosciences Society and on various boards, including that of the Michael Garron Hospital and the Canadian Mining Innovation Council. She was Dean of Science at Ryerson from 2012 to 2018.

 

What: “Embracing Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Canadian Post-Secondary System” with Imogen Coe

When: Wednesday, Sept. 18 from noon to 1 p.m.

Where: Room 160, Medical Sciences Building, UVic