Unlearning Racism in Geosciences with WICGE


There has been no progress on increasing diversity in geoscience in the last forty years1. Structural racism, sexism, and hostile climates prevent individuals from making geoscience a just and equitable place for all geoscientists2. As a community, we need to address our biases and actively work to be anti-racist to develop more inclusive environments3,4.

This organization supports and advocates for women in coastal geosciences and engineering. However, it is important to recognize that our community members of color face an additional set of obstacles. By advocating for women of color, we lift up all women. A vast amount of research has shown that a rising tide does not lift up all ships. In order to ensure that all women are included and supported in coastal geoscience and engineering, we must focus efforts specifically toward supporting our peers of color.

In acknowledging unfairness in the work setting, it’s crucial to recognize my own experiences as a white woman in geoscience. I’ve personally faced discrimination, but I’ve also come to understand the privilege I hold due to my skin color. Similarly, my identity as a Jewish woman has taught me the pain that communities feel when they are systematically discriminated against, attacked, and excluded. As a white Jewish woman, I believe it’s my duty to leverage my privilege to advocate for historically silenced and excluded geoscientists, especially those who are black, indigenous, and people of color.

I am proud and eager to begin tackling racism in coastal geosciences and engineering with my WICGE peers. Through the program Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE), a group of WICGE members will be learning from the curriculum and developing anti-racist policies that will inform our organization’s operations and support anti-racist policy initiatives that any of our membership can implement at their own institutions. We will share the documents we develop through this course on our website.

Racism is a massive, systemic issue. Dismantling it requires both individual action and systemic changes. It can be overwhelming to think about where to start. Learning about racism, discrimination, and systemic oppression is very important, but learning will not fix these issues. We must take actions to individually support peers of color and change the exclusive systems of our institutions, organizations, and companies. Of course, I don’t have all of the answers of what needs to be done. But I can tell you it takes work, just as learning and doing coastal geoscience and engineering does. Everyone can and needs to be involved in solutions for anti-racism. First, think about the influence you hold at your level. What can you change for yourself? What can you change for others?

If you’d like to join us in this URGE course, please contact Rose Palermo (rpalermo@mit.edu) by Friday January 29th, 2021.


[1] Bernard, R.E., Cooperdock, E.H.G., 2018. No progress on diversity in 40 years. Nat. Geosci. 11, 2016–2019. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-018-0116-6

[2] Marín-Spiotta, E., Barnes, R.T., Berhe, A.A., Hastings, M.G., Mattheis, A., Schneider, B., Williams, B.M., 2020. Hostile climates are barriers to diversifying the geosciences. Adv. Geosci. 53, 117–127. https://doi.org/10.5194/adgeo-53-117-2020

[3] Dutt, K., 2020. Race and racism in the geosciences. Nat. Geosci. 13, 10–11. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0519-z

[4] Kendi, I.X., 2019. How to be an antiracist. One world.

Posted on: 26/01/2021, by :