Associate Professor East Carolina University Greenville, North Carolina, United States
Session Description: WOCinEEB is a highly interactive, online support network for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who are either women or non-binary, in ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB). Founded in January of 2020, WOCinEEB has grown to support programming for roughly 300 active members, including 1-on-1 and peer mentorship programs, monthly professional development workshops, and culturally-relevant career advice. Research indicates that social support through identity affinity groups promotes retention of women of color in STEM disciplines. WOCinEEB provides an important intersectional space for building community and belonging in ecology, a historically white-dominated field. The covid-19 pandemic has inflicted extreme stress and isolation on scientists, particularly caregivers. BIPOC scientists face additional pressure to lead diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in their institutions and professional societies. At a time when women are disproportionately leaving the workforce, WOCinEEB is a lifeline to BIPOC women and non-binary ecologists, providing a sense of community and identifying and dismantling barriers that prevent BIPOC from becoming leaders in the field.
The purpose of this session is two-fold. First, it will serve to bring BIPOC women and non-binary ecologists together to expand existing WOCinEEB group-mentoring networks, bridging vital online connections with a much needed in-person experience. Second, organizers will lead a roundtable discussion on the importance of affinity groups for diversifying ecology. Session organizers and any interested participants will pull concepts from this discussion into an article on the merits of affinity groups for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in ecology.