A radical response to structural problems


In light of Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and transphobia in academic and research institutions, are mainstream approaches to equality, diversity and inclusion in member organisations and learned societies insufficient?

The Young Academy of Scotland has initiated a bold project that intends to disrupt current thinking about equality, diversity and inclusion within member organisations and learned societies. Described as a ‘radical response to structural problems’, the member-led project involves two strands of related work. In October 2021, YAS will undertake its first-ever diversity monitoring survey of current members. This exercise will engage members to share information about their identity characteristics as well as experiences of EDI during their time at YAS.

This assessment of the current situation feeds into the second strand of work, which seeks to change practices both within YAS and other member organisations and learned societies. A YAS working group will develop an equality and justice toolkit that provides prompts for organisations to consider when engaged in activities such as the recruitment of staff, appointment of Fellows and awarding of funding.

Unlike many previous outputs, the toolkit adopts a ‘critical’ view as to who actually benefits from mainstream EDI interventions (such as unconscious bias training or networking opportunities) and the inherent limitations of approaches only focused on diversity and inclusion. Using plain English and written for those engaged in the work of member organisations and learned societies, the toolkit will offer an introduction to how concepts such as structural inequality, critical race theory, decolonisation, intersectionality, homonormativity and abolition apply to activities in this space.

Dr Kevin Guyan, a Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow and YAS member, is leading the project. He explained:

“This is an opportunity for YAS to do something different. Too many projects under the banner of equality, diversity and inclusion are unwilling to disrupt the status quo and remove power from those who have unfairly benefited. With such tepid ambitions, those most disadvantaged by the current structures of member organisations and learned societies look back on decades of EDI work and see that little has changed.

Working with others, we hope that YAS’s Radical Response project can contribute to a new way of doing EDI that flips the focus so that we change the structures that impede equality rather than the individuals who wish to gain access and succeed in these institutions.”

As part of the toolkit’s development, YAS is keen to engage with those working on EDI in other member organisations and learned societies, as well as groups that represent the interests of people historically excluded from these spaces. For further information or to express interest in being involved as the project develops, please contact us.