In 2006, the Johns Hopkins University Committee on the Status of Women published a lengthy (163 page!) report outlining issues related to equity and climate. It is a formidable document and to summarize: Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.

The question for today is: Has anything improved?

The answer is: How will we know?

Among the recommendations included in the Vision2020 report was to “Create a Climate of Equity and Civility”. The mechanisms proposed to address progress in this area included charging an office with fostering change toward gender equity. Among a list of specific recommendations, this office would be responsible for

developing interventions and changes in policies and practices needed to alter Johns Hopkins‘ culture, establish accountability, and monitor progress, thus achieving gender equity.

But no office developed.

Exit interviews were recommended as another means to evaluate climate.

Have these been implemented? Have data and anecdotes in them been used to drive evidence based policies?

In the absence of these mechanisms, how will the university know if climate is improved or not? I will argue that it will be only if each of us tells them by speaking our truth.

Yes. Speaking truth to power is hard. It is simultaneously liberating and exhausting and not without risk. But I have come to realize over the years that not speaking up is just plain old exhausting.

We are going through a reckoning, and in many ways the momentum of the #MeToo movement gives us all permission to dish. Confessions are coming from all directions; in private conversations, on social media, and, of course, the New York Times.

But it’s complicated. I read these articles and so many deeply buried, raw emotions bubble up to the top. It’s kind of like living those experiences all over again. There is, literally, a physical adrenaline rush (not the good kind) when a writer’s words speak to me in a way that exactly captures how I felt but couldn’t articulate. #Exhausting.

Still, I recognize that these stories are a necessary part of moving forward. We as a community need to hear them so we can do better.

The COACHE survey that Hopkins is currently conducting with faculty is one way to assess the current climate. Although there is only one place for entering a narrative, the survey has many questions that speak to climate. If you are in this cohort, you should have received an email from both the Provost as well as the Collaborative on Academic Careers, and yet a third reminder from the provost’s office today. They state that all answers are anonymous and that data will be somewhat aggregated. Participation is voluntary. The results will be shared with the powers that be, and perhaps the responses will be heard. We have a new Chief Diversity Officer now, a seeming straight talker from New York City no less. I am hopeful.

And I urge you, if you have been silent and if you feel ready, now is the time to begin to speak your truth. Do the COACHE survey. Only then can it get better. #WeMustDoBetter

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