Sociology for Diversity

Diversity has been an ongoing theme of my research, since I conducted my Honours and PhD theses and my subsequent research on migration, intercultural communication and how gender affects industrial practices. Lately I’ve been working on diversity issues in science and business. This includes how social science can be used to improve management of multicultural workplaces, and how gender diversity is important to the Internet. There is a lack of diversity in sociology that also needs attention. Our traditions still privilege the knowledge of White researchers from Europe and North America (more on this another time), but we also have a narrow academic vision of what it means to practice sociology. Similarly other sciences are structured around the skills and knowledge of White middle class men. Here’s an overview of my recent writing on these issues.

Sociology for Diversity
Sociology for Diversity

Diversity managementStarting with Social Science Insights, I wrote about How to Improve Business Through Diversity Management. Cultural differences can improve businesses through innovative ideas, and strengthening understanding of different client groups. Diversity is often positioned as a problem that needs to be managed, but leaders spend less energy on thinking about how they might improve their management skills to maximise on diversity. Multicultural workforces are an untapped resource that employers can draw upon in order to boost productivity. The dominant managerial practice that many workplaces adopt is too rigid to deal with cultural differences. I’ve put together practical advice about how managers might use social science to improve their leadership for multicultural teams. This includes providing intercultural training; fostering an environment of respect; and recognising the benefits of a diverse workforce. Learn more on my blog.

Diversity of Knowledge


Over my research blog, The Other Sociologist, I wrote about Sexism on Wikipedia, focusing on the edits happening on the page describing the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter. This is a world-wide conversation about women’s experiences with everyday sexism. The Wikipedia page documents how this hashtag began in response to the mass shooting in Santa Barbara USA. The hashtag was used by women to reflect on the connection between misogyny and gender violence. The #YesAllWomen Wikipedia page received heavy criticism by male Wikipedians, who claimed the page was “biased” by focusing on women as the victims of sexual crimes.

On my blog post, I note that Wikipedia is renowned for having a gender imbalance. Women contributors make up less than 13% of editors, and they overwhelmingly report hostile interactions, especially having their content being overly-edited by men. Why does this happen? Wikipedia is supposed to be a global project to democratise knowledge. As I note in my post, diversity is a core concern for Wikipedia’s founders and executives. See how Wikipedia is an hostile space for women, and why this needs to change.

Diversity in Sociology

On my Other Sociologist Facebook page, I post regularly on diversity issues. Something that resonated with a few people was my post on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQI) traditions in other cultures. I note in the comments, that this diversity was largely a privilege to high-class or specialised groups. Sexuality is something that all societies have historically restricted or moderated to some extent, though hopefully not for much longer in terms of social stigma and the law.

Applied Sociology VisibleOn Sociology at Work, I’ve started to republish some of my old papers on the Otherness of applied sociologists. I sketched the division between academic and applied sociology on Doing Sociology Beyond Academia; and followed up on how we might Break Down the Otherness of Applied Sociology. Recently, I also published a reflection on the disconnect between the way we approach writing a PhD thesis in sociology, versus the reality of the work we’ll produce as applied sociologists (those of us working outside academia). In Learning to Write a Thesis, I noted that sociology theses are amongst the longest dissertations of all science disciplines. Lengthy discussion is the opposite of what our jobs will demand. I discuss an example of one of the projects I worked on, where I would read up to 300 resources per day, and my output was to provide a five minute oral presentation to my team, and only occasionally would I write this up. I also show the professional importance of brevity and visual sociology.

Diversity in Other Sciences

Sexism in STEMOn STEM Women, I wrote about our #ScienceChat on Equality & Inclusion. This was a Twitter event that we facilitated. Ten researchers from the USA and UK answered questions on how to improve diversity in science. The panel included Professor of Sociology Jessie Daniels who writes for Racism Review and YouTube science educator Julia Wilde. I was incredibly proud that our discussion was a top trending topic for the day.

I also wrote about Sexism in Click Bait Science News, after ScienceAlert, a pop science news site, published a a photo of a woman’s breasts to entice people to click on a weak story. We had previously covered the problem in using sex to sell science. The ScienceAlert article not only lacked science, but the image led to a sexist discussion on their Facebook page, which the editors did not bother moderating. Sexualised images recreate the dangerous stereotype that the most notable aspect of a woman is her looks, rather than her knowledge. Sexist imagery also creates an environment where women, already a minority in science, are made more conspicuous for the wrong reasons. Read more.

Erin Kane's Career Advice for Women Social Scientists. Via STEM Women
Erin Kane’s Career Advice for Women Social Scientists. Via STEM Women

These past couple of months, I have co-hosted several STEM Women interviews along with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe. It was an absolute delight to chat with physical anthropologist Erin Kane who recently returned from doing fieldwork in Cote d’Ivoire where she was studying monkey behaviour. She discussed her research and gave great career tips. For example, she encouraged young women interested in science to look for a niche area to build their career upon. We also discussed a recent study led by Kate Clancy, which finds that 59% of anthropologists face sexual harassment in the field, especially from senior researchers. Erin talked about how we might increase women’s safety by building in sexual harassment awareness into social science degrees and as part of field training.

Advice for Women Scientists of Colour
The right conditions won’t always exist. You will have to create them. – Clarissa Silva, Behavioural Scientist

Another social scientist we spoke to was behavioural scientist Clarissa Silva who is a true inspiration. She began her career as a research scientist studying the transmission of HIV in Central America. She has since forged a successful career as a relationship advice blogger and launched an app. Clarissa gave useful advice about how women social scientists might better promote their skills to industry and on social media. Being a woman of colour, Clarissa argued that minority women in science have additional hurdles, partly because there are even less role models for us to follow, and partly because we face even more institutional barriers than White women. Clarissa said: “We still have the burden of under-representation. The right conditions won’t always exist. You will have to create them.”

Diversity in Art

Finally, NAIDOC week, Australia’s celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures, was held in July. I celebrated by showcasing Indigenous artists on my art blog, Antipodeans (see my curation of Indigenous art).

That’s it for now. Until next time, enjoy this wonderful reflection on dignity and diversity, by one of my favourite sociologists.

Sociology Quote of the Week: Prof. Philomena Essed

I'm fascinated by what dignity means... it's what we need most in relations between people, in particular in preventing conflict, or in dealing with conflict, and in being able to create an environment where everyone can use their talent. - Philomena Essed, Professor of Sociology,
I’m fascinated by what dignity means… it’s what we need most in relations between people, in particular in preventing conflict, or in dealing with conflict, and in being able to create an environment where everyone can use their talent. – Philomena Essed, Professor of Sociology

Connect with me: @OtherSociology on Twitter.