TRELIS and the important conversations

 TRELIS Leaders presenting at UCGIS

TRELIS Leaders presenting at UCGIS

For three days before the UCGIS conference, 16 participants and 7 leaders spent time together at the TRELIS workshop. The workshop focused on how to emphasize our strengths, and determine our own path, with a focus on non-traditional career paths over a singular model of a ladder. A career that can be symbolized by an interweaving trellis provides for a richness of experience and diversity. From our experiences there is growing acceptance in both the academy and industry. This is particularly important to women as we balance multi-faceted expectations. At the workshop, we spent a lot of time discussing issues we all struggle with in a space where we could focus on those struggles through the lens of the female experience in our field. The acceptance of less traditional career paths are hugely important for those who sit at the center of many intersections. I am thankful that the organizers recognized the need for support like this within our field and I look forward to participating in the continuation of the work.

While we still have a lot of work ahead of us when it comes to intersectional working environments, there are two reasons that I believe we are making progress in how we exist in the world. First, it is because of events like TRELIS—supported by the National Science Foundation—which are bringing these conversations to light. They used to occur in bathrooms, or whispers in the hallway … small, tucked away, non-public spaces. However, amazing women like Dr. Laxmi Ramasubramanian, former president of UCGIS who looked around her professional organization and saw a need to create this space, Dr. Diana Sinton, Executive Director of UCGIS whose persistence kept everyone moving, and lead PI Dr. Kate Beard-Tisdale all worked together to create a space for this conversation to happen, and carried it through thoughtfully. Together, leaders and participants identified subtle—and not so subtle—ways that they disproportionately bear the weight of obstacles, are erased, and are silenced, and they learned new tools to advocate for themselves, their expertise and research.

Secondly, I find hope in the the increasing number of people who hold a disproportionate amount of power looking around and asking, “Who isn’t in the room with us? Why not, and what can we do about it?”

Kudos to UCGIS and NSF for the example they are setting in our field, for other professions, for professional organizations, and our workplaces. To the critics who ask, “Why isn’t there a TRELIS for men?” I encourage you to hold that question, and ask it again when women occupy 50% of the seats in our conferences, board rooms, and faculty meetings. Organizations are evolving, visibility of labor and inequity are rising. How is your organization increasing awareness, and what actions are you taking as a result?