Missing narratives in discussions around diversity and inclusion in research software engineering - SeptembRSE

By Yanina Bellini Saibene in English Community

October 24, 2021

On September 28 I participated in a panel called “Missing narratives in discussions around diversity and inclusion in research software engineering” at the SeptembRSE conference, on Research Software Engineering. I was nominated for the panel through an open form and it was a very pleasant surprise to receive the invitation.

The abtract for the panel said

An inclusive community values diversity at all levels, promotes equitable access to resources and engages its members in decision-making processes, especially when those decisions affect their lives. This panel discussion will encourage adoption of this action-laden definition of an inclusive RSE community by centering on intersectional voices. We will use this opportunity to raise awareness of power imbalances in academia that negatively impact multiple marginalised groups in research, and provide a call-to-action for diversity and inclusion. The panel discussion will aim to highlight important issues and challenges related to diversity, accessibility and belonging that the RSE community would benefit from learning about, discussing and collaborating on. With this goal in mind, the panel organisers will bring together experts who lead different efforts for improving diversity, equity and inclusion in academia, for example, training, policy development and data-led research. Among other topics, we hope to discuss disability, mental health, representation of the Global South in RSE efforts and mentorship support for members from marginalised communities.

You can access the introductory presentation, the panel recording and the shared notes that were taken during the panel and the discussion that followed after the panel.

I shared the live panel with Alex Chan (who already wrote a blog post about this panel), Caleb Kibet, Charles Gray and Liz Hare. Malvika Sharan led the panel and Rowland Mosbergen moderated it. Jeremy Cohen, Michelle Barker were co-organisers.

The instructios for the panelists was that we think and share a story with a positive result, answering one of these two questions:

  • How did someone center and advocate for intersectionally marginalised voices, and how did that make a positive impact?
  • When did someone redefine merit and how did that make a positive impact?

So I chose to comment on my experience with communities of practice and especially with R-Ladies because I think it answers both questions. This is my full script:

My name is Yanina and I live with my husband and my two beautiful children in a small town in Argentina. I am a scientist. And early this year I learned that what I was doing for the last 23 years at my job is called Research Software Engineer. I’m the first generation with a high school diploma, so I’m still learning how the academic world works, especially the international one.

R-Ladies was the first community that made me feel welcome. Before that, I was rejected by other tech communities because I didn’t speak English, I am a woman, I don’t have a PhD, I am Latin American, I don’t have many followers on Twitter, and I live too far away and in a very small town.

R-Ladies centers and advocates for women and other gender minorities It welcomed me when others did not, and the benefits go both ways.

The community gets a passionate and hard-working member. I started as a chapter organizer, now I’m part of the R-Ladies global team, I am a co-founder and co-chair of LatinR, co-chair of useR! and lead teams that translate R and educational material into Spanish. I also help other communities like MiR and The Carpentries, and co-founded a new community: MetaDocencia.

What I get is knowing that I can be as good as anyone from anywhere. I start from a disadvantaged place, with fewer tools and resources, but I can still be a leader and have an impact. It makes me wonder what people like me could achieve if we weren’t wasting our time breaking through all these barriers.

I’m one of the privileged ones in my region. I can afford to learn a new language, use my free time for volunteer work, and learn the international rules, but so many can’t. If we really want equity we must eliminate these barriers. More than that, we need people from these groups in decision-making roles. The division of work inside the community must be fairly distributed in transparent ways, and more public recognition must be given to those who work behind the scenes.

Those who have already heard me about this topic on other occasions, can see that I am repeating myself, but things have not changed enough for me to stop saying the things that I have been saying for a couple of years.

Posted on:
October 24, 2021
4 minute read, 762 words
English Community
RSE Community
See Also:
Day 30. 3 Things I Learned Writing Online Every Day For 30 Days In A Row.
Amplificando voces: minorías en la frontera de la IA en la comunidad R
Day 29. Building Effective Tech Lessons 101. Learning by Example.