Inaugural Building Inclusive Community workshop

October 11, 2019

On September 27, 2019 the Harvard Women in Physics group hosted a two hour workshop for graduate students titled Building Inclusive Community. The core concepts were

  1. Various aspects of a person's identity affect that individual's experience in a space.

  2. A person's identities combine and intersect in a way that is unique to them.

  3. The environment can interact with a person's identities in ways which might make them feel vulnerable.

The goals of the workshop were to

  1. Bring awareness to how identities could affect a person's experience in academia.

  2. Start conversations about creating an inclusive, supportive, and productive peer community.

  3. Provide well-defined strategies and action plans to eliminate and confront inappropriate or unwelcoming behavior in the workplace.

WiP Co-Chairs led the first half of the workshop by facilitating small group discussions of identities and community values. Title IX Coordinators Seth Avakian and Danielle Farrell led the second half which consisted of a presentation and small group discussions about intervening in difficult or uncomfortable workplace scenarios. All situations and issues discussed throughout the workshop were adapted from or inspired by anonymized testimonies provided by Harvard physics students.

25 graduate students attended the workshop representing all years from G1-G6. Roughly half of attendees were G1s, and 20% of attendees were from the Applied Physics program. All attendees participated enthusiastically in the small group discussions and expressed particular satisfaction with the Title IX Coordinators’ presentation and scenario discussions.

Building Inclusive Community workshop

In a post-workshop survey attendees were asked to indicate on a scale of 1-5 (1 being not confident at all, 5 very confident) how confident they felt about speaking up or talking to someone about behavior that hinders an inclusive community. Average confidence before the workshop was 3.1, and after the workshop confidence increased to an average score of 4. Participants expressed overall satisfaction with the workshop, particularly the opportunity for self-reflection and intervention practice during the small group discussions. Attendees also indicated that they gained concrete action items they feel confident using to intervene if they witness inappropriate or unwelcoming behavior.

Women in Physics would like to thank the Title IX Coordinators for their support and flexibility while developing a custom presentation to be used in the Building Inclusive Community workshop. During the conceiving and planning phases we received a great deal of encouragement and input from Physics and Applied Physics administrators, Physics faculty, and GSAS Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs representatives. The Physics department funded planning sessions and the event, including the post-workshop lunch. Princeton Women in Physics, Minority Biomedical Scientists of Harvard Medical School leadership, and The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning provided inspiration and shared resources for this event. We also would like to acknowledge the Physics and Applied Physics graduate students who informally facilitated small group discussions at the workshop. Finally we profoundly thank the group of Physics and Applied Physics graduate student women who were essential contributors from the outset.