Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion within SRM

Guidelines for Professional Behavior and Recommendations for Meeting Organizers to Improve Diversity and Inclusion at Annual Meetings

By: Directors Dr. David Toledo and Dr. María E. Fernández-Giménez

SRM takes pride in its diverse membership which includes students, educators, researchers, agency staff, private industry and non-profit professionals, as well as producers and land stewards; all from a wide variety of backgrounds, disciplines and viewpoints.  SRM aims to create an atmosphere where anyone who shares our interest in rangelands and wants to join is welcomed, valued, affirmed and encouraged to participate.  In 2017, the SRM Board adopted a diversity statement in support of this aim.

This statement includes the commitment to, “vigorously strive to eliminate implicit bias and reject discrimination and stereotyping within the Society by proactively fostering tolerance, mutual respect, and multicultural awareness and competency by actively promoting inclusion in membership, education and training, competition, leadership, committees, staff, and all other areas of SRM activity.”  In July 2019, the Board approved and adopted two documents intended to support SRM in living up to its commitment.  These documents are the SRM Guidelines for Professional Behavior at SRM Sponsored Activities and the Recommendations for Meeting Organizers to Improve Diversity and Inclusion at Annual Meetings.  The Guidelines create clear expectations for positive professional behavior at SRM gatherings, clarify inappropriate conduct, and specify how SRM members can report and respond to harassment, bullying and derogatory statements.  The Recommendations for Meeting Organizers are suggestions based on best practices for inclusive and accessible meetings.

The best practices outlined in these documents aim to foster an environment of respectful engagement and interaction, create a welcoming environment for all meeting participants and members, and help SRM to recruit and retain a diverse and active membership.  Below, we address some frequently asked questions about diversity and inclusion, and the purpose and need for these documents.

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?
Diversity is having people present in an organization or at an event, who represent a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, especially as they relate to the organization’s purpose and clientele.  This can mean different professions, disciplines, and viewpoints, as well as different backgrounds and identities such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, class, ability/disability, sexual orientation, etc.  Each of is us a complex multi-faceted individual with many simultaneous identities.  For example, María comes to SRM meetings as a rangeland professional and academic, but she doesn’t stop being a 55-year-old middle-class female parent from a multicultural family background when she walks in the door.

Inclusion means that everyone who is a member or who attends an SRM event is truly welcomed, valued and affirmed for who they are as a complex individual, and is invited to participate fully in the organization or event.  In other words, David wants to be seen, accepted, and valued as a rangeland scientist who is also a native Spanish-speaking foreign-born male (among other identities).  If members and participants don’t feel that they can be their authentic selves at SRM, and accepted and valued for who they are as a whole person, we have not yet achieved inclusion.

Why are diversity and inclusion important to SRM as a professional society?
Promoting diversity and inclusion increases SRM’s overall excellence, impact, and relevance.  Abundant research and experience demonstrate that diversity and inclusion improve performance in all types of organizations and are critical to achieving excellence.  A diverse and inclusive society benefits from bringing together different points of view, disciplines, work experiences, backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities to solve issues rangelands face.  A recent study found that diverse organizations reap an innovation bonus of smarter and more creative teams, leading to novel discoveries.An inclusive and welcoming professional society attracts the best and the brightest, and we want the best and brightest to choose SRM as their professional home and to stay with us throughout their careers.  As diverse as SRM is, we can do even better in recruiting and retaining a diverse membership to meet the rangeland challenges of the future.  Doing so only enhances our Society’s effectiveness, and takes nothing away from our existing strengths.

Are the Guidelines for Professional Behavior and the Recommendations for Meeting Organizers a requirement?
The Guidelines for Professional Behavior at SRM Sponsored Activities describe expectations for professional conduct at meetings.  Behavior outside these Guidelines, like harassment or disruptive actions, can result in sanctions, such as being asked to leave the event.  The Guidelines do not replace the existing SRM Code of Ethics and general Standards of Conduct, which SRM staff and members will continue to abide by at SRM meetings and events or when representing the Society, they supplement them.

The Recommendations for Meeting Organizers to Improve Diversity and Inclusion at Annual Meetings includes a list of suggested best practices that help create meetings that are accessible to and inclusive of a wide diversity of people, beliefs and backgrounds.  The Recommendations are suggestions and not requirements, as it may not always be feasible to implement all of these suggestions.  However, we strongly encourage meeting and program organizers to review the recommendations and consider how they can implement practices that combat stereotyping and implicit bias in programming and promote accessible and inclusive meetings.

Why have a meeting code of conduct?
As rangeland managers and researchers most of our work happens outside of meetings, but meetings are where we come to share our knowledge, build collaborations, network, recruit, and learn.  Meetings are a key component for advancing and sharing science and management. When unwanted behavior such as harassment or discrimination limits participation, it not only affects other participants’ access to potential scientific and/or management advancements, it may cause a sense of disillusionment and distrust which can lead people to drop out of an organization.  Not tolerating abusive behavior, and having guidelines for handling and reporting such behavior, helps SRM continue in a tradition of fostering growth and contributing to professional development and scientific advancement in a safe and inclusive fashion. For these reasons, having a meeting code of conduct, such as the SRM Guidelines for Professional Behavior, is an established best practice for professional and scientific societies.

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