In August, the SOT Presidential Chain held focus group discussions with Black and Latinx members to discuss diversity and inclusion within the context of the Society and its activities and programs. The conversations were highly valuable and informative, and we look forward to continuing these discussions during a Society-wide Town Hall on September 25 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm (ET). If you would like to participate in this Town Hall, please register—all members are invited to attend.
To share some of the insights gained from the focus group discussions, both groups felt that SOT was an organization in which people were valued for their science and not judged by their race, gender, etc. However, both groups also expressed that SOT could be more intentional in relation to inclusion of diverse individuals within SOT leadership roles and programs. It was suggested that SOT develop processes, including asking the Special Interest Groups for assistance, and resources to help educate members on the leadership opportunities afforded by the Society and to encourage participation by individuals from diverse groups.
The SOT Undergraduate Diversity Program was applauded as an excellent way in which SOT has been addressing diversity and inclusion for 30 years, but concern was raised about how SOT supported or connected with the participants after the program in order to continue to foster diversity in toxicology and the other biological sciences—why do so few of the participants in the program elect to pursue graduate degrees in toxicology?
Similarly, both groups indicated that SOT could do more to welcome new members and support our graduate students and postdocs by providing more information about the Society and all the programs that offer support and participation opportunities. The question was raised about whether the Society had the ability to involve our student and postdoc members in an ad hoc capacity in more groups and committees.
Some of the other items that were raised during the discussion included more training for leadership and members on diversity and inclusion; working more closely with Job Bank posters to ensure diversity and inclusion is being considered when reviewing job candidates; and examining the label “Special Interest Group,” as something like “Diversity Alliances” may be more representative and appropriate for these groups.
Thank you to the members who candidly shared their insights. All members are invited to gain insight on existing and planned efforts about these topics and to provide their input during the SOT Town Hall meeting on September 25 at 1:00 pm (ET).