The digital publication of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC)

A Place at the Table

By Cristin Dorgelo

The theme of this issue is “Broadening Participation.” What we at ASTC mean when we talk about broadening participation is our commitment to increasing diversity, accessibility, inclusion, and equity in all aspects of our work—paramount values in our increasingly connected global society.

Our field has made strides in offering inclusive opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)—welcoming people from all backgrounds to experience and shape our science centers, programs, and special events. Yet there is much more to be done. As ASTC Diversity and Leadership Development Fellow Meghan Schiedel points out, just being invited to the dance isn’t enough; you have to be asked to dance.

All of us have roles to play in lifting up the contributions of underrepresented groups to science, technology, and innovation. We have platforms for sharing broadly that we are all better off in a world where everyone can achieve their full potential and contribute to building the future. The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology’s “Hidden Women” tour gives belated credit to significant scientists and inventors who were excluded from recognition because of their gender. First Nations and Native American stories are being told at the Exploration Place in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada and in the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona.

These inspiring stories make us reflect on what novel contributions our world has missed out on and what discoveries were disregarded because people were silenced—and ask what we can do to increase access to opportunity and deepen our connections with the communities we serve. At the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Connecticut, the EVOLUTIONS after-school program provides disadvantaged high schoolers a supportive social community, informal science learning, and exposure to the work of professional scientists. Deeply listening to our diverse communities, as was done at the sessions hosted by Explora in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a way to uncover barriers and opportunities for collaboration. Looking inside our institutions to the diversity, experience, and cultural competence of our own teams is a place to start—including through Cultural Competence Learning Institute training, collaboratively supported by ASTC.

Over the past decades, we at ASTC have invested in and will continue to invest in action for the field in support of these values—including our Diversity and Leadership Development Fellows Program, the long-running YouthALIVE! Initiative, and the focus we place on inclusion in STEM during the November 10 International Science Center and Science Museum Day.

Initiated by ASTC’s leadership change in early 2018, our association has embarked on a time of reflection, turning our focus inward. As we listen to our members, reflect on how ASTC can uniquely impact society in positive ways, and reevaluate our priorities and strategy, we are committed to an ongoing process of institutional change and improvement—developing open and self-reflective processes and operations and prioritizing diversity, accessibility, inclusion, and equity in all aspects of our work. Learning from a wide array of perspectives and experiences allows us to be a stronger, more effective, and more creative association.

To chart a path forward as a field, we need to be fearless in assessing where we are coming from and acknowledge that progress will require culture shifts and growing pains. Commitment to broadening participation across our community can have outsize impacts. As role models, standard bearers, and creators of engaging, participatory, welcoming, and inclusive experiences, we are on the front lines of getting everyone to the table.

Cristin Dorgelo is ASTC’s President and CEO.

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