August 25, 2020


  • The scientific enterprise is composed of people whose beliefs, biases, and actions reflect societal values that have been forged over centuries by racism and racist policies.

  • The overall demographics of the STEM workforce, which reveal persistent underrepresentation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities at all training and career stages relative to the population [12], are indicative of ongoing systemic racism in STEM. 

  • Racism and racial discrimination against BIPOC scientists is reflected in disparities in invitations to speak at conferences [3] and salaries [4] and in studies such as one in which professors assessed identical CVs to be less favorable if they carried a traditionally Black or Latinx name compared to if they had a traditionally white or Asian name [5]. 62% of Black employees and 42% of Hispanic employees in STEM report experiencing discrimination related to recruitment, hiring, or promotion [6].

  • BIPOC scientists are subjected to a constant barrage of microaggressions that are documented in places like the #BlackInTheIvory threads. Black academics are especially subjected to grotesque, racist challenges to their right to belong in certain spaces and skepticism that they could even hold positions in those spaces.

  • Numerous news articles [e.g. 7, 8] highlight the compounding trauma racism inflicts on our Black colleagues on- and off-campus. In a recent example [7] Dr. Danielle Fuentes Morgan, an Assistant Professor at Santa Clara University who lives on campus, was harassed by campus security when her brother came to her house. Security demanded that she show her university ID to prove that she was faculty and demanded proof that she lived in the house in which she was standing. 

  • More broadly, the racist history of biomedical research (e.g. unethical medical trials and the perpetuation of racist ideas about biology) echoes today as a mistrust of scientific research and medicine by members of Black and other minority communities. This perpetuates a cycle in which these same communities are underrepresented in medical trials and research related to medical conditions that disproportionately impact communities of color.

Action items for our community

  • Read more: “Responses to 10 Common Criticisms of Anti-Racism Action in STEM” 

  • Commit to changing yourself. Learn to identify microaggressions and implicit biases. Be vigilant about your own behavior and call out microaggressions committed by colleagues.

  • Commit to challenging structures within academia that discriminate against our BIPOC colleagues. How do we evaluate job candidates and applicants? What is our definition of “success” and what do we reward?

[1] NSF 2019 Report, “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering”
[2] US Census Quick Facts
[6] Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends