NASW 2021 Diversity Report

Establishing tools: 2021 progress report on NASW diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility efforts

January 2022

The National Association of Science Writers, an organization of 2,900 journalists, authors, editors, producers, public information officers, students, and people who write and produce material intended to inform the public about science, health, engineering, and technology, is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. We value these principles for how they enrich our profession because incorporating the perspective of storytellers, subjects, and sources that represent the breadth of human experience is essential to identify and communicate the full range of stories about science.

In our inaugural report, we outlined three areas of outstanding work needed to create lasting and meaningful change:

  • We need to set concrete and actionable goals regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
  • We need to develop reliable and transparent metrics to track progress on those goals.
  • We need to develop more robust strategies for connecting with and supporting writers from underrepresented communities and ensuring that they feel welcome and well-served within NASW.

In this second annual report, we review three specific areas of progress towards achieving these targets:

  • Establishing tools: Setting focal areas and tracking metrics
  • First look: Reviewing tracking metrics for 2021
  • Setting future goals: Room for continuous improvement

Why diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility principles are important to NASW and to our professions

Since its founding in 1934, NASW has aimed to “foster the interpretation of science and its meaning to society, in keeping with the highest standards of journalism.” For us to stay true to our long-held mission, we believe that these highest standards include accurate, comprehensive, and fair representation of the communities that we aspire to inform and engage.

Although a majority (64%) of our membership identify as female – a group traditionally underrepresented in sciences and journalism in general – NASW remains predominantly white, with an average of 81% of members identifying as white in the last three years.

NASW is not alone in these efforts – nor in the need for our membership demographics to better reflect society as a whole. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that 77% of newsroom employees are non-Hispanic whites, compared with 65% of US workers in all industries; 61% of newsroom employees are male, compared to 53% of all workers.

The Society for Professional Journalists underscores the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in journalism: We highlight diversity in our mission statement because we believe it is essential to excellence and high standards in reporting. We incorporate diversity in our code of ethics because we believe journalists must make every effort to describe all aspects of the human experience, that we must avoid the stereotyping and limited vision that corrupt accuracy. Comprehensive and fair news coverage is essential to an informed public and to democracy itself.

The American Press Institute writes that diversity initiatives to broaden the perspectives and voices in the news are both a business and journalism imperative: Without accounting for the range of lived experiences, we fail to serve parts of our communities. Journalism, in its truest form, should be produced for the benefit of all, not only those who wield a particular power, class or authority.

Guiding NASW’s efforts to celebrate and support diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are three core beliefs:

We believe:

  • It is impossible to identify and communicate the full range of stories about science without incorporating the perspective of storytellers, subjects, and sources that represent the breadth of human experience.
  • Efforts to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility should infuse all programs, projects, initiatives, and functions and should be the work of all members, volunteers, and committees. These efforts should be championed at the highest levels, and they should not be invisible work borne by marginalized groups.
  • It is important to track our efforts and progress with meaningful metrics.

In pursuing efforts to support these principles, we intend to expand the horizons of science writing and reporting and expand the audiences and venues in which society and democracy flourish.

Thank you to all the volunteers and community members who have been part of these efforts. From being involved with NASW programs to making changes in your own work, each individual has something to contribute. Please reach out by emailing director@nasw.org if there are ways that you would like to be involved.

1. Establishing tools: Setting focal areas and tracking metrics

To set goals and measure progress, NASW needs to assess and track metrics. The 2020 Diversity Working Group identified potential metrics for tracking diversity-related efforts within NASW, with a focus on six areas:

  • Leadership: Percentage of candidates, elected board members, staff, and committee chairs who are from historically marginalized groups *
  • Membership: Percentage of members who are from historically marginalized groups, broken down by group and career stage
  • Student membership: Percentage of student members who are from historically marginalized groups, broken down by group
  • Annual conference: Percentage of attendees, session organizers, and speakers who are from historically marginalized groups
  • Fellowships and grants: Percentage of fellowship applicants and recipients who are from historically marginalized groups
  • Awards: Percentage of award applicants, recipients, and judges who are from historically marginalized groups

* We consider historically marginalized groups to be those communities excluded from full educational, economic, and/or social participation based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, physical ability, nationality, age, socioeconomic status, and/or belief.

In 2021, we focused on collecting and analyzing the available diversity-related data in each of these six areas. We assessed the types of demographic data currently collected, if any, and moved toward standardizing collection and analysis methods where possible. In the past, inconsistencies and lack of best-practices guidance for collecting such information presented difficulties, especially in our efforts to compare year-to-year changes.

Currently, we feel that the best way to standardize our demographic data collection is to ask respondents an optional question with the ability to select multiple group identities, along with a text box for other or additional self-identifications. The following table provides an overview of the type of self-identifying data now being collected, along with notes on actions taken in 2021 for each focal area.

Progress Overview

  • Focus area: Leadership
    • Option to self-identify during annual renewal survey.
    • Data tallied for first time in 2021 and reported out here.
  • Focus area: Membership
    • Option to self-identify during annual renewal survey.
    • Existing categories revisited and updated for 2022 renewal survey. Analytic methods for tabulation codified.
  • Focus area: Student membership
    • Option to self-identify during annual renewal survey.
    • Student data analyzed separate from full membership data for first time in 2021.
  • Focus area: Annual conference
    • All registrants, which includes some, but not all, speakers and session organizers. had the option of entering self-identification values for gender identity and race/ethnicity.
    • 2020 and 2021 data reported here for the first time. For 2022, questions about gender identity and race/ethnicity will be asked in an identical way to the membership renewal survey: a required multiple-choice question with the ability to decline to answer, choose multiple answers, and/or fill in a text box for options not listed.
  • Focus area: Fellowships and grants
    • Of the five grant programs run in 2021, three asked “Are one or more of the applicants members of an underrepresented minority or group?” and two asked “Are one or more of the applicants members of an underrepresented minority or group and/or does the proposed project serve an underrepresented community or audience?”
    • Current data provide insight on how grant programs serve underrepresented minorities; however, they do not directly indicate the metrics of applicants or awardees. ( Aims of the grant are not separated out from applicant(s). In 2022, we will consider adding two additional questions to gauge gender identity and race/ethnicity of applicants and awardees.
  • Focus area: Awards
    • In 2021, the entry form included an optional question:

      In what ways does your entry reflect diversity in the topic(s), sources, audience(s) and/or author(s)?

      These awards seek to recognize science writing that is shaped by a variety of perspectives, because such writing enables us to tell more broadly relevant stories that better serve our readers and communities. Therefore, we consider diversity in topics, sources, audience and/or authors to be a critical component of excellence.

      In 1-2 sentences, please tell us how your entry reflects diversity in the topic(s), sources, audience(s) and/or author(s). In the case of identities, please note that you do not need to disclose any personal information of authors or sources that you are not comfortable sharing with the judges. You may simply choose to state something like “One or more of the authors is part of an underrepresented group” or ”Several of the sources identify with underrepresented groups.” This information will only be used as part of the judging process.

      For the current award contest that closes on Feb 1, 2022, we made this question required and added two new, optional questions about gender identity and race/ethnicity. Applicants can choose multiple answers and/or select “A gender/race/ethnicity not listed.” To assist in standardization, options mirror those in the membership survey. Depending on the answer rate, we will consider making the question required, with an option to provide no information as is done for membership renewals.

2. First look: Reviewing tracking metrics for 2021

Leadership

This year, we tallied the gender identity and race/ethnicity of NASW leadership for the first time. In general, leadership is more diverse than membership. For the purposes of these metrics, we consider leadership to include board members, staff, and committee chairs. Because these add up to a relatively small number (fewer than 50), we report fewer specifics to protect privacy.

Across this category, 73% of leadership identify as female and 18% as male, compared with 67% and 32% of the general membership. A majority of leadership self-identifies as white or caucasian (60%) the second-largest group identifies as Asian or South Asian (21%). This compares with 81% and 5%, respectively, in the most recent general membership survey from early 2021. For both the race/ethnicity and gender question, 9% declined to answer or were missing data.

(Note: Leadership positions other than staff are unpaid.)

Membership:

For the first time, we have parsed data to compare demographics of respondents by career stage. Approximately 64% of NASW’s then 2,856 members completed the annual renewal survey during Winter 2020-21. Fifty percent reported 15 years or fewer in the field (a number that also includes students), and 50% reported 16 years or more in the field.

Gender

  • Female
    • Full membership: 63.6%
    • Students: 65.6%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 70.9%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 56.2%
  • Genderqueer, nonbinary, multiple genders, a gender not listed
    • Full membership: 1.7%
    • Students: 8.6%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 3.1%
    • 16 years or more in the field: <0.5%
  • Male
    • Full membership: 30.7%
    • Students: 22.5%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 22.9%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 38.6%
  • Declined to answer
    • Full membership: 3.9%
    • Students: 3.3%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 3.0%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 4.8%

Race/ethnicity

  • Asian
    • Full membership: 3.3%
    • Students: 7.9%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 4.8%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 1.8%
  • Black or African American
    • Full membership: 0.9%
    • Students: 1.3%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 1.3%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 0.5%
  • Hispanic or Latino
    • Full membership: 1.6%
    • Students: 3.3%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 2.3%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 1.0%
  • Middle Eastern or North African
    • Full membership: <0.5%
    • Students: <0.5%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): <0.5%
    • 16 years or more in the field: <0.5%
  • Native American or American Indian
    • Full membership: <0.5%
    • Students: 0.7%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): <0.5%
    • 16 years or more in the field: <0.5%
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
    • Full membership: <0.5%
    • Students: <0.5%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): <0.5%
    • 16 years or more in the field: <0.5%
  • South Asian
    • Full membership: 2.0%
    • Students: 3.3%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 1.5%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 1.0%
  • White
    • Full membership: 81.2%
    • Students: 72.8%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 78.5%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 83.7%
  • Another race or ethnicity not listed
    • Full membership: 1.2%
    • Students: 1.3%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 0.5%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 1.8%
  • Selected multiple
    • Full membership: 4.7%
    • Students: 5.3%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 5.7%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 3.6%
  • Declined or missing
    • Full membership: 5.4%
    • Students: 4.0%
    • 15 years or fewer in the field (including students): 4.5%
    • 16 years or more in the field: 6.4%

The numbers reported above come from a single question that allows respondents to select multiple options. If a respondent selected multiple answers, from now on we will simply report this as “respondent selected multiple answers” rather than assigning each of the multiple answers to a specific race/ethnicity. We believe that by reporting in this manner, it allows this type of self-selected identities data to be more transparently represented and reported..

(We note this here because the latter strategy has been used in other NASW reporting, yielding different numbers. That is why for some categories, larger percentages are reported here compared to the membership survey published in pages 10-11 of the Summer/Fall 2021 issue of ScienceWriters magazine. )

Annual conference:

The annual ScienceWriters conference held in the autumn of each year is open to members and non-members. A virtual gathering was convened in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are excited that the virtual format provided an opportunity for increasing international participation in this marquee event, which provides additional diversity in perspectives of attendees. In 2020, attendees hailed from 22 countries and 30 in 2021.

To aid in analysis, tracking, and comparisons, beginning in 2022, we will format demographic questions of attendees to mirror the ways the questions are asked in the annual membership renewal survey.

  • Total registrants
    • ScienceWriters2020: 1026
    • ScienceWriters2021: 807
  • Domestic
    • ScienceWriters2020: 93.6%
    • ScienceWriters2021: 90.0%
  • International (based on country of residence)
    • ScienceWriters2020: 6.4%
    • ScienceWriters2021: 10.0%

During conference registration in 2020 and 2021, registrants were asked "Current gender identity?" The question was optional and was an open-ended text response rather than multiple choice. Answers were analyzed via text analysis and grouped as followed: (Many used multiple labels so sums to more than 100%)

  • Text entered by respondents: Female/woman
    • ScienceWriters2020: 74.9%
    • ScienceWriters2021: 76.5%
    • Notes: In 2020, 2% included cis in their descriptor, 3.4% in 2021
  • Text entered by respondents: Male/man
    • ScienceWriters2020: 23.2%
    • ScienceWriters2021: 20.1%
    • Notes: In 2020, 0.9% included cis in their descriptor, 0.5% in 2021
  • Text entered by respondents: Queer/genderqueer/nonbinary/agender/demigender/trans
    • ScienceWriters2020: 2.0%
    • ScienceWriters2021: 3.4%
  • Text entered by respondents: No answer
    • ScienceWriters2020: 23.5%
    • ScienceWriters2021: 28.6%

During conference registration in 2020 and 2021, registrants were asked "How would you describe your race and/or ethnicity?" The question was optional and was an open-ended text response rather than multiple choice. Answers were analyzed via text analysis and grouped as followed: (Many used multiple labels so sums to more than 100%)

  • Text entered by respondents: African
    • ScienceWriters2021: 0.2%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 2.4%
  • Text entered by respondents: African American, Black
    • ScienceWriters2021: 1.6%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 3.2%
  • Text entered by respondents: Asian American
    • ScienceWriters2021: 1.3%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 1.7%
  • Text entered by respondents: Biracial, Multiracial, Mixed
    • ScienceWriters2021: 2.1%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 3.0%
  • Text entered by respondents: Caucasian, White
    • ScienceWriters2021: 80.0%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 70.6%
  • Text entered by respondents: East/Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander
    • ScienceWriters2021: 1.0%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 2.9%
  • Text entered by respondents: Hispanic, Latino
    • ScienceWriters2021: 5.1%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 6.5%
  • Text entered by respondents: Native American
    • ScienceWriters2021: 0.4%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 0.3%
  • Text entered by respondents: South Asian, Indian
    • ScienceWriters2021: 3.7%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 3.9%
  • Text entered by respondents: No Answer
    • ScienceWriters2021: 20.1%
    • ScienceWriters2020: 21.6%

Fellowships and grants:

A major instrument through which NASW creates benefit and impact for its membership and the broader professional community is through direct funding, in the form of project grants, individual fellowships, or waived or discounted fees. Monetary disbursements directly offset an individual beneficiary’s financial burden — and as such, we have a strong interest in assessing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility trends for these programs.

Fellowships and grants

  • Applicants: 116
  • Applicants from historically marginalized groups: 40.5%
  • Applicants from low or middle income countries: 36.2%
  • Awardees: 60
  • Awardees from historically marginalized groups: 13.9%
  • Awardees from low or middle income countries: 70% *
  • Total awarded: $60,975
  • Amount to historically marginalized groups: 80%
  • Amount to LIMC: 18.8%

*As a social construct, the concept of race differs (or may not exist) in different parts of the world. In areas where we have a significant proportion of international participation, we have chosen to use residence in Low and Middle Income Countries (as defined by the World Bank) as a proxy for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Annual awards:

Each year, NASW conducts the Science in Society Journalism Awards and the Excellence in Institutional Writing Awards. While we ask entrants to speak to the diversity of authors, audiences, sources, and/or topics, we do not currently have demographic information on authors.

To remedy this, for the current award contest that closes on Feb 1, 2022, we added two new optional questions about gender identity and race/ethnicity. Applicants can choose multiple answers and/or select “a gender/race/ethnicity not listed.” To assist in standardization, options mirror those in the membership survey. Depending on the answer rate, we will consider making the question required, with an option to provide no information as is done for membership renewals.

3. Setting future goals: Room for continuous improvement

It is important to remember that metrics are not an end — but rather a means — to progress. As an organization rooted in both journalistic and scientific ethics, we place value on tracking changes with an evidence-based approach.

We've spent a good amount of effort this year to think deeply about how we can best assess diversity. In changing and designing how we collect evidence, we’ve discovered that how we ask the questions and how we present the responses are not often straightforward. So, we've been discussing, considering, and occasionally adjusting processes midstream. All of this is done with an eye toward balancing the privacy of individuals and sensitivity with transparency in the data.

This iterative, reflective process may not seem ideal. For instance, it makes year-to-year or endpoint-to-endpoint comparisons tough. We believe, however, that we are closing in on an approach that is fair, non-intrusive, mostly anonymous, and still helpful for us to assess change in our membership demographics.

With a picture — albeit incomplete — of where we are in several of these key areas, the continuing priority for 2022 will be to identify goals that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in NASW in keeping with the organization's mission. That is, using measurement and understanding to support actionable change. The aspects for review and improvement are many, including but not limited to:

A new pathway to membership: In the fall of 2021, our membership overwhelmingly approved several bylaw amendments. These changes are an example of tools we are employing to make membership more accessible to people from a variety of backgrounds. The biggest change was to our membership categories. With hopes to build scaffolding for a more inclusive membership, the addition of “Affiliate member,” supported by 92% of voters, was intended to increase access to those who come to science writing professions through broader or nontraditional avenues. In addition, we removed the requirement for Professional member applicants to have two current member sponsors. Both changes stand to affect the performance of our organizational goals for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and more effort is needed to evolve our evaluations accordingly.

Member-suggested actions: Each year, during the annual renewal survey, we ask members about their most-used NASW resources and ask about any improvements they would like to see in what NASW offers. We report these results each year and use it to guide budgeting and programming. In 2022, we plan to develop a survey, or series of surveys to gauge how members feel at events, online, and in their work and where they feel improvements are needed as related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

Student programing: Cultivating a career-entry pipeline is a major emphasis for any diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility program for a professional association. NASW already has a strong history of student-serving programs, from AAAS-related internship fairs to the virtual Perlman Mentoring Program launched during the pandemic. We plan to assess these incredibly successful programs from a diversity-related lens as well.

Complaints and remedy process: We have continued to support and enforce the policies in place to support members of our professional community. During 2021, one formal complaint related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility was investigated and resolved. What are steps NASW can take to continuously improve the reporting, resolution, and evaluation aspects of these procedures?

Talk to us

NASW fights for the free flow of science news — and the success of our collective professional community has always been driven by our membership, from elected and volunteer leaders to thoughtful and vocal members. Please continue to communicate your ideas, reactions, and requests to us in 2022 regarding these and any other perspectives we can still address. Our inboxes (director@nasw.org and president@nasw.org) are always open — and we thank you for your shared passion in nurturing a caring community for all our science writing colleagues and trainees.

 

Previous reports: 2020

 

January 21, 2022