ASM Joins Scientific Community in Opposing Administration’s Decision to Eliminate Diversity Training Programs

Oct. 7, 2020

The American Society for Microbiology has signed the below community stakeholder letter urging White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russell Vought to rescind rules eliminating diversity, equity and inclusion training for federal employees.

Mr. Vought:

The undersigned scientific societies strongly urge the Administration to rescind its elimination of federal employee training programs related to diversity, equity and inclusion as specified in the Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies issued Sept. 4, 2020 and the Sept. 22 Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. These executive actions run counter to current efforts by federal agencies, contractors and grantees to foster a more inclusive and equitable work environment and are detrimental to efforts to address discrimination based on race or gender identity.

Federal employees, contractors and recipients of federal grants are at the core of the U.S. research and development (R&D) ecosystem, and they play a crucial role in creating a diverse scientific workforce. While there has been progress, the participation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. scientific and technical workforce does not reflect the diversity of our population. Their underrepresentation negatively impacts the U.S. R&D enterprise by depriving it of diverse perspectives that are shown to boost innovation and productivity. In many scientific fields, this lack of diversity cannot be solely attributed to inequities in education or the workforce pipeline – the scientific, technical, engineering and math (STEM) community must also confront systemic discrimination and racism. For example, it has been shown that, historically, the percentage of federal grants awarded to minority scientists has been lower than their white peers, largely due to underlying biases.

Research shows that there are systemic and cultural aspects of the current R&D ecosystem which negatively contribute to an inclusive and productive career environment. However, specific actions have been identified to address them, including the implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) trainings using an evidence-based approach. Such trainings help employees become more aware of barriers to increased diversity, motivate positive behaviors and attitudes, and improve cognitive skills.

The Sept. 4 memorandum and Sept. 22 Executive Order do a disservice to our community and research itself by wrongfully linking DEI trainings to the notion that anyone is inherently racist or sexist. While evidence-based DEI trainings are not impacted by these actions, wrongfully insinuating that DEI trainings are inherently anti-American sends a message of division, intolerance and subjectivity that is damaging to our R&D community.

We urge you to rescind these executive actions to help create and sustain a more diverse, inclusive, equitable and productive scientific community. A thriving scientific enterprise makes our nation stronger which in turn will drive a quicker recovery from COVID-19 and secure a healthy and prosperous future for all Americans. Please let us know if we can help with any additional information or ideas.

Read about ASM's commitment to building an equitable and inclusive culture.

Author: ASM Advocacy

ASM Advocacy
ASM Advocacy is making it easy and providing opportunities for members to advocate for evidence-based scientific policy.