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“We have accepted lack of diversity as normal”

Why are Black geoscientists underrepresentated in the minerals industry, asks Dr Andrew P.G. Abraham

1 March 2021

Geology (and all its incredible subfields) is an amazing science to learn. The integral importance of geoscience and the minerals industry to global economies should make it a strong choice for developing future careers. So, why does it not attract more Black students and why are there so few Black geoscientists and corporate leaders?

The scarcity of Black geoscientists is not a function of Black students finding geoscience and careers in the minerals industry uninteresting, it is a function of over 40 years of white geoscientists and corporate leaders happily content with the status quo.

Even though most of us, who are white, have rarely met Black geoscience students, professors, geoscientists and corporate leaders, we have rarely voiced concern, and mostly accepted the lack of diversity as something normal.

It should not have taken the horrific murder of George Floyd to create the unprecedented global change in corporate attitudes. But the minerals industry, to a large extent, has stood silent. Silence is a form of complicity, and the minerals industry gives the impression that it does not care. Why? Because it does not understand nor feel connected to the Black community and its predominantly white boardrooms are an echo chamber insulating them from reality. This should shame us all.

The industry’s Black underrepresentation starts with the education system that has not yet stepped up to changing its predominantly white complexion. This is a major global issue, especially in primarily white countries where colonial attitudes and systemic racism are still ingrained, and where Black underrepresentation is not seen as an issue.

It is time for us to do more than speak up. We must go beyond wearing t-shirts, using hashtags and glossy Corporate Social Responsibility reports. We need to take action to create truly diverse and welcoming workplaces in academia and the minerals industry. This will not happen overnight, but we can make a start through open dialogue on inclusivity, equity, and breaking down barriers. We need to create intern programmes, more scholarships and bursaries, and mentorship and outreach programmes to attract Black high-school students into geoscience. We need to encourage them to continue in academic research and work in the minerals industry. How can we do this? By creating a paradigm shift in culture and attitude, celebrating Black role models, recognising Black student’s abilities and achievements, encouraging them to become leaders, accepting them for who they are, and nurturing their desires to succeed.

Dr Andrew P.G. Abraham is an independent consultant who serves as volunteer Director External Engagement for the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences

This opinion piece links to the Unearthed article Waiting for a paradigm shift

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