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Snapshots of staff diversity efforts at MIT

Imagine a workplace where staff value differences, are committed to building a balanced and diverse community, and are focused on making the culture inclusive and welcoming. No need to imagine: Staff across campus are busy with efforts related to diversity and inclusion. Below is a snapshot of some of the work.

Council on Staff Diversity

The council, sponsored by Vice President for Human Resources Alison Alden, consists of 16 employees from various schools, departments, labs and centers, who meet regularly "to identify, encourage and celebrate diversity initiatives, programs and practices for staff across the Institute" -- as directed by President Susan Hockfield last spring.

The council has a full agenda, including addressing concerns related to equal employment opportunity and a focus on creating synergy among faculty, staff and student diversity management efforts. Three subcommittees have evolved from their meetings: communication and awareness, serving as a liaison to other MIT diversity-focused groups; data gathering; and benchmarking. Stay tuned for a web site that describes all the council's activities; in the meantime, e-mail for more information.

A robust program at MIT Medical

At MIT Medical, the effort around diversity has been so great that it prompted the creation of a full-time position. Enter Diane Magnuson, MIT Medical's diversity and inclusion manager. Much of the activity focuses on cultural and ethnic differences. A diversity newsletter is produced every month, and there's also a monthly "Let's Talk" session, where staff come together to discuss current events that relate to diversity. Training on cultural sensitivity is ongoing, with these training sessions offering staff the opportunity to reflect on people's backgrounds and how this affects their experiences. And, MIT Medical was one of the first groups at the Institute to champion a diversity and inclusion award through the Rewards and Recognition program.

Strength in differences: MIT Lincoln Laboratory

Lincoln Laboratory has been a busy place as well. Early in his tenure, Director Eric Evans formed a laboratory diversity committee and charged that group with advancing the professional staff and establishing best practices. Bill Kindred, Lincoln Laboratory's diversity and inclusion officer, is hard at work in this arena, focusing on many initiatives. His most important tasks include a focused recruiting effort and educating the community as to why diversity is a benefit in the workplace, observing that "a team isn't a strong team unless there are differences in thought." Lincoln Laboratory celebrates diversity months ranging from National Disability Month to Hispanic Heritage Month, and one of its big projects is about to take off: an intranet site on diversity and inclusion -- a perfect communications vehicle for the Lincoln Laboratory community.

Joining forces for diversity

Among the activities at MIT Libraries, a recent event, in collaboration with Harvard College Library, is an example of outreach efforts toward a more diverse workforce. MIT Libraries and Harvard hosted participants from the Association of Research Libraries Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce. The goal was to highlight the opportunities that exist for librarians in dynamic research and teaching communities. Thirty new librarians or library school students from all across North America attended this two-day program.

New in HR

To build a more balanced and diverse workforce at MIT, HR provides support to departments, labs and centers by offering consulting advice, creating a pipeline for diverse candidates, and providing the opportunity to participate in diversity job fairs, among other things. With HR's Diversity and Inclusion Specialist Genesia Eddins and a newly hired director of staff diversity, these efforts will be accelerated in the months to come.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 29, 2008 (download PDF).

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