Lab Matters Spring 2021 - Page 9

Key DEI Definitions
FEATURE
American Public Health Association , compares a diverse workforce to a large box of crayons , offering a range of perspectives , identities and experiences .
“ Your outputs can only reflect the richness of your starting palette ,” he said . “ If you ’ re missing colors from the box , you ’ re limiting what you can collectively accomplish .”
Public health laboratories do not yet match the broader American palette . According to the 2018 APHL Workforce Survey Report , state public health laboratories are predominantly white , with Blacks and Hispanics comprising just 7 and 3 percent of survey respondents , respectively . Respondents were two-thirds female and somewhat younger than the overall state public health workforce , with about 60 percent being under 50 years of age .
Building more diverse public health laboratories will take intention , time and ongoing commitment , beginning with an honest assessment of the current state . As one of his first priorities in 2020 , APHL President Bill Whitmar , MS , convened a new task force to promote DEI principles and practices in APHL ’ s operations and activities . One of its first undertakings is a diversity survey for member laboratories to capture a portrait of employees based on demographic and cultural factors such as gender , age , race , sexual orientation , religion and political affiliation . The DEI Task Force is also planning an inclusion survey to assess how well laboratorians feel heard and supported in their workplaces .
Recruitment and retention efforts need to be a priority , said Bibbs Freeman , who is chairing the DEI Task Force . Numbers alone aren ’ t enough , but they offer both a starting point and a way to measure progress toward equity , where many groups are represented and all have the supports and resources they need to be productive .
“ I feel strongly about creating some baseline metrics on where we are with diversity as well as inclusion , because I don ’ t think you can have equity until you have those two things ,” she said .
Your outputs can only reflect the richness of your starting palette . If you ’ re missing colors from the box , you ’ re limiting what you can collectively accomplish .”
Mighty Fine , MPH , CHES

Key DEI Definitions

Diversity : The collective shared human differences , abilities , experiences , perspectives and group characteristics among a group of people . Diversity is a key indicator in workforce development . Dimensions of diversity include race , ethnicity , culture , gender , sexual orientation , social and economic classification , age , disability , religion and more .
Equity : Opportunities and access to achieve , contribute and advance are distributed fairly , creating an environment that allows people to attain their full potential . Equity is not the same as equality . It does not mean that everyone receives the same treatment or support ( equality ), but that everyone gets the support they need because systemic barriers are removed .
Inclusion : Leverages diversity to create fair , healthy and high-performance organizations or communities in which everyone can thrive .
Seen and Heard
Chenelle Norman , MPH , is focusing on the individual stories behind those numbers . When Norman , quality improvement manager in APHL ’ s Newborn Screening & Genetics Program , joined APHL ’ s Emerging Leader Program ( ELP ) in fall 2020 , she had been thinking a lot about the role of race and equity in society . After extensive discussions , the fall class of ELP Cohort 13 decided to undertake a project focused on DEI and exploring the experiences of minorities within public health laboratories .
Cohort members interviewed several colleagues who identify as minorities in some way , such as race , religion or sexual orientation , about their experiences — positive and negative — working in a public health laboratory and whether they had encountered any misconceptions or prejudices related to their identity . Some of the interviewed staff recalled instances of feeling conspicuous or racialized , such as having their name mispronounced , having assumptions made about their ethnicity or ability to speak English , or comments — overt or indirect — about their hair texture or style .
“ What really stood out to me as a consistent theme were these stories of not being comfortable with being yourself and presenting yourself as you are , because you don ’ t want to be deemed as different or ‘ other ’ or called out in a negative way ,” Norman said . “ In 2021 , you think we ’ d all be accepting of each other ’ s differences . But minority groups still struggle with the need to fit in . And the stress of that , I think , is really harmful .”
Constant awareness of how one is perceived is exhausting , she noted , and feeling responsible for being a representative of a minority group adds a lot of pressure . What ’ s more , negative or uncomfortable interactions can affect work if individuals do not feel their work or opinions will be trusted by others .
DIGITAL EXTRA : Hear more about what cohort members learned in Episode 24 of the APHL Lab Culture Podcast .
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