Diversity and Inclusion at the Kentucky Geological Survey
August 20, 2020
We support and celebrate diversity, respect, and human potential as three of the organizational core values articulated in our 2017 KGS Strategic Plan. Embodiment of our core values is an expectation written into every KGS job description and used as a criterion in performance evaluations. Our core values also serve as a compass for organizational decision making within KGS. They represent the geological survey we aspire to be.
In the United States, the geosciences are among the least diverse of all the sciences. KGS has not been an exception. We made a commitment in our 2017 strategic plan to increase the diversity of people and ideas within KGS. There are many published analyses showing that increased diversity leads to greater creativity and provides competitive advantages that will help us to better serve Kentucky. Increasing diversity is a smart thing to do. It is the right thing to do. And, we are doing it.
Diversity cannot thrive without inclusivity. Embracing and amplifying the University of Kentucky policy on discrimination and harassment, we welcome staff, collaborators, and stakeholders regardless what they look like, where they come from, what they believe, or how they express themselves. The only condition is that we have no tolerance for racism, sexism, or any other form of discrimination, exclusion, or harassment.
We at KGS continue our long-standing commitment to provide unbiased scientific information to Kentuckians. We do not advocate on behalf of policy options. However, we recognize that our employees may have deeply held personal convictions and that each has the right to speak out as an individual on social, political, and environmental issues. Those issues may be controversial or uncomfortable to some, but that in no way diminishes the rights of our staff to have their voices heard as individuals outside of work.
What we’re doing about it
KGS cannot reinvent itself overnight. We can, however, lay out a systematic and sustainable strategy to recruit and retain a more diverse staff as positions become available. Here are some of the steps we have taken since 2017 to start increasing diversity and inclusion at KGS, and will continue into the future:
- We advertise full-time geologist and related professional job openings nationally on the American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, and Association for Women Geoscientists web sites in order to attract a broad pool of applicants. Moving forward, we will also advertise openings on the National Association of Black Geoscientists web site and continue to look for new ways to attract more diverse groups of applicants.
- We form search committees to make consensus hiring recommendations to the director for full-time geologist and related professional job openings. The search committees bring together KGS staff of different genders, ethnicity, and seniority. When possible, we also include a faculty member from a University of Kentucky academic department to provide an additional perspective.
- Before evaluating job applications, our search committees meet to review the KGS core values and strategic action commitments (including increased diversity) as a framework for their evaluations. The meetings include a discussion of unconscious bias in hiring decisions.
- We follow a set of inclusive scheduling guidelines for finalists invited to campus for interviews.
- In cooperation with our university human resources and training offices, we have offered—and will continue to offer—staff seminars covering topics such as Title IX, harassment, discrimination, unconscious bias, and generational challenges in the workplace.
- We ask nontraditional or otherwise underserved stakeholders or stakeholder groups to suggest nominees for our governor-appointed advisory board.
- An ongoing KGS research collaboration—funded by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine—is helping us learn to identify and engage underserved non-traditional KGS stakeholders in Appalachian Kentucky. We will expand the effort to include a wider range of underrepresented and non-traditional stakeholders in rural areas and urban centers throughout Kentucky.
- We have supported reestablishment of a local Association for Women Geoscientists chapter, including participation of KGS staff as part of their ongoing professional development programs.
- We have become affiliated with programs such as the Kentucky Climate Consortium and the NIEHS-funded UK Center for Appalachian Research on Environmental Sciences (UK-CARES), which include commitments to translational and citizen science, resolution of socially and economically driven health disparities, and environmental justice.
- We have developed a KGS social media policy that gives our staff flexibility and freedom when expressing personal opinions on social, political, and environmental issues while maintaining our organizational obligation to be a source of unbiased scientific information for Kentucky.