Saturday, July 26, 2008

Women and Cultural Diversity

Today, I attended my first committee meeting, and a lively event it was. I officially joined the "Joint Committee on Women in Plant Pathology and Cultural Diversity." That is a mouthful, isn't it? And indeed, a good deal of the discussion concerned the name and scope of the committee.

The committee finds its roots in two committees of the past. One was the Committee of Women in Plant Pathology, the goal of which (among other things) was to enhance the opportunities of women in the field, whose representation in APS leadership was not a true reflection of their composition of the organization. As you can imagine, women in plant pathology have faced similar problems as women in science, or women in society in general. The committee for Cultural Diversity had similar goals, although their target audience was minorities. The two committees came to realize that their respective programs served both target groups, and decided to join.

A large part of the discussion today was focused on the fact that the majority of the attendees of the meeting were, in fact, women. Culturally diverse women, to be exact, but largely women. Period. There was at least one person who was of the opinion that the overwhelming majority of women signified the downfall of the cultural diversity aspect of the committee.

There were 2 men there at the start of the meeting, a few more came trickling in as the meeting progressed.

One of the discussion points was that it is possible that the name of the committee is off-putting to men who want to join (even culturally diverse ones). If so, should the name be changed? In the end we decided to put the issue up for vote. Six new names were suggested for the committee, and APS members will be able to decide which one of the 7 names (the old one and 6 new ones) will prevail. The discussion is scheduled to continue on the APSnet discussion boards, which are open to APS members only by clicking on the "Interactive" link.

More importantly though, the point was made that the group might be losing track of its goals, and those might need to be redefined. No specific plan was made to address that issue, but I have high hopes that the committee will find a way to do that.

APS Centennial Meeting

The American Phytopathological Society (APS) annual meeting started today July 26, 2008. It is a very special meeting, since it is the centennial meeting, and I'm very excited to be here. This is the first APS meeting I've had the pleasure to attend. I'm hoping to write regularly about the happenings at the meeting, so stay tuned! Hopefully, I'll also get a chance to put in some pictures over time, although I haven't taken a single one yet, I've been too involved with the goings on.