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Area 3: Embedding equity

Embedding equity is about ensuring that equity is mainstreamed throughout the organisation and all activities.
2.6
This section of the Compass is all about embedding equity. As equity and inclusion become a growing focus for many informal STEM learning professionals and organisations, it is useful to think about how equitable practices are adopted within these practices. From funding calls to magazine articles and social media, the language of equity, inclusion, diversity, and social justice are everywhere. And increasingly, that language is used across the ISL sector. But we need more than a shift in language. We need to embed equity in our practices, relationships, and organisations.
45.4
As I’m sure you have all noticed, too often, equity and inclusion become tied up in a specific person’s role or limited to specific programmes, for example, when diversity is located in a specific exhibit and activity, while the rest is business as usual. Tokenising equity in this way is both damaging and limiting. What happens when that programme finishes? What happens when the person who comes to embody institutional equity can’t stand it anymore? What difference can it really make if the rest of an organisation doesn’t work to mainstream equitable and inclusive practice? We ought to be asking - how central and intentional are equity issues in a programme and the organisation? Are equity issues everyone’s core business?
99.5
Or are they minor, token, peripheral concerns, such as restricted to specific programmes and temporary funding? Which members of the organisation get equity training or are expected to understand and demonstrate equitable practice? Often, if training does exist to engage staff with issues of diversity and inclusion, this is limited to staff working directly with participants, while others, such as those working on exhibit design, media and marketing, receive little such training. Do equity issues come to rest with certain bodies, but not others? For instance, too often, Black colleagues, colleagues of colour, differently-abled colleagues, and queer colleagues take on a disproportionate amount of equity work, whether it’s their specialism or not. How vulnerable is working on equity in your organisation?
158.6
If a particular programme finishes, what happens to the people involved? If one or two key members of staff left, would equity disappear from the agenda entirely? There is a risk that when the programme ends, so will your inclusion activities. If one person is responsible for all these activities, the pressure may get too much. And they could leave. And all good progress could be stopped, or worse, revert back to before. If redundancies have to happen as a result of a restructure, which roles and which staff go first? We’ve seen many cases where roles associated with community relationships, inreach and outreach, or similar inclusion posts, disappear.
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Are equity issues baked into hiring, volunteering, and trustee recruitment processes, not just at interview, but in how those roles are advertised and the criteria associated with them? Equitable practice is particularly powerful when it’s everyone’s job, everyone’s responsibility, and when it is part of every activity, from the welcome to communications, programme development, to interacting with participants. Getting everyone to think about equity isn’t always easy. But it is the best way to support and develop the changes needed to make ISL more inclusive.

The third Equity Compass area is called ‘Embedding Equity’.

In this video, Emily explains what the ‘Embedding equity’ area entails and why it is an important component of equitable informal STEM learning practice.

Too often, equity and inclusion become tied up in a specific person’s role or limited to specific programs. For example, organisations may focus on specific programs working with particular underrepresented demographic groups. This runs the risk of inclusion work being located within this specific activity, while the rest is business as usual.

Tokenising equity in this way is both damaging and limiting. What happens when that program finishes? What happens when the person who comes to embody institutional equity leaves? What difference can one-off activities really make if the rest of an organisation doesn’t work to mainstream equitable and inclusive practice?

Equitable practice is particularly powerful when it is everyone’s job, everyone’s responsibility, and when it is part of every activity: from the welcome to communications, program development, to interaction with participants. Getting everyone to think about equity isn’t always easy, but it is the best way to support and develop the changes needed to make informal STEM learning more inclusive.

Next, we use the questions introduced within this Equity Compass area to think about an illustrative case study taking place in a zoo.

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Equity in Informal STEM Learning: Using the Equity Compass

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