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Working with discomfort

It can feel uncomfortable using the Equity Compass. Watch Louise explain why discomfort can be productive and necessary.
So we want to start off by talking about discomfort. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable using the Equity Compass. In fact, we hope that often it does feel a bit uncomfortable when you start using it. This is because equity work is a journey. It’s an ongoing process that involves us looking openly, honestly, and reflectively at our current practice. It’s not a tick box exercise. A key part of critical professional reflection involves shining a spotlight on privilege. This can be uncomfortable for those of us who are more privileged, especially as the reflection is probably not something that we often do. However, we want to encourage you not to push away any feelings of discomfort or put them aside.
Discomfort can be really productive and it can be a welcome sign that you are on the right track. So when you start using the Compass, we hope that it doesn’t feel too easy. It shouldn’t be something that you use to simply validate what you already do. Rather, we want to encourage you to use it to really identify and pinpoint those areas of your practice which aren’t so equitable and inclusive.
This can be a particular challenge when our reflection seems to be suggesting that maybe a particular favourite thing that we’ve been doing for years might not be quite as great as we think it is, or when we find that maybe while some people do find what we’re doing great and they really enjoy it, it might unwittingly be excluding others, but particularly those from less privileged communities. So a reaction that we’ve had a few times from some practitioners when they start to use the Compass is a concern along the lines of, “But I’m a white, middle class, male scientist or engineer. I can’t change who I am. Are you saying that I shouldn’t be working in ISL?”
No, we’re definitely not saying that. However, what we are saying is that if you can be open to feeling and working with some discomfort, then the Equity Compass tool can help you to critically reflect to identify the issues and areas that you might not have known about before, or might not have considered or thought about. And then it will help you develop ways to make your practice even more effective and inclusive. We’re also aware that many ISL practitioners who’ve come through STEM career roots might not have had much support or professional development before to really think about, understand, and engage with these issues.
So we hope that this training course can help develop your own knowledge and your skills in this area too.

It can sometimes feel uncomfortable using the Equity Compass. This is because the Equity Compass highlights issues of privilege and injustice. But discomfort can be a really good sign that you are on the right track!

In this video, Louise talks about why discomfort can be an important and productive part of developing equitable practice.


Can you think of and share an experience from your professional life when you’ve felt uncomfortable about something to do with issues of diversity and inclusion?

Maybe this was your own experience of injustice (e.g. sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia), or maybe it was when you’ve been challenged or felt uncomfortable in a situation where you’ve been in a position of privilege or power?

Please briefly describe and share the experience.

  • What happened?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • How do you think the situation made other people feel?
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Equity in Informal STEM Learning: Using the Equity Compass

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