Space for Creativity

All of the most creative ideas and approaches I have had came from being in places where I felt supported. I’m far from alone. People are more creative when they feel a sense of belonging. Why, then, have we been so slow to work towards creating inclusion and belonging in science and engineering?

My best students and colleagues were rarely the ones who made perfect scores and grades. They are often the ones who find a space where they feel like they fit and are welcomed. I think about the times I have navigated challenging environments in science, and in those times, I feel like I’ll never have another good idea. But, when those environments change, the ideas come flooding back. It is incredibly difficult to be creative when one worries is one’s colleagues will harass one, one’s students, or seek to make life difficult. One focuses more on survival than on what might be possible.

If we value science and engineering and innovation, we owe it to ourselves and our colleagues to dismantle the systems that make harassment and prejudice not only so easy in academia but so common. We owe it to ourselves and to our colleagues who have to work twice as hard to even be considered acceptable when, if we didn’t constantly judge and downgrade their performance, they would have the space to be transformational. We owe it to our fields and to the possibilities they hold. It is the right thing to do and it is the smart thing to do. Creating spaces that allow people to thrive creates better science and more possibilities.

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