Session 01: Diversity and Inclusion- An Introduction with Dr. Dovan Rai

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Dr. Dovan Rai got her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she worked in education technologies. She identifies herself as a socialist feminist and is a writer, programmer, and designer. Dr. Rai is currently working as a Research Fellow at Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (GIIS), coordinating research group ‘AI and Emerging Technologies for Sustainable Future.’ She is also co-founder of Sujhaab Chautaari, a career counseling platform for the youth of Nepal.

Dr. Rai led the first session of Nepali Women in Computing (NWiC) — EDUCATE on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). She discussed how diversity and inclusion, although talked about together, are different things, the latest research and news on D&I, and her experience as an engineering student in one of the most prestigious engineering colleges in Nepal, Pulchowk Campus, IOE.

Some of the major takeaways from the session were:

  1. विविधता र समावेशीकरण फरक कुरा हुन्। विविधता भनेको “भिन्नताहरूको उपस्थिति” हो र यसको मात्रात्मक मापन गर्न सकिन्छ। जबकि समावेशीकरण गुणात्मक छ र भिन्नता लाई अँगाल्ने बारेमा छ। विविधताको उपस्थितिले समावेशीकरण सुनिश्चित गर्दैन। Diversity and inclusion are two different things. Diversity is the “presence of differences” and can be measured quantitatively. In comparison, inclusion is more qualitative and is about embracing the differences. The presence of diversity does not ensure inclusion.
  2. विविधता भएको र समावेशीकरण नभएको कम्पनी र संगठनहरुमा अधोरेखित समुदायहरू विरूद्ध माइक्रोएग्रेसनको देखिन्छ। Microaggression against the underrepresented communities is common in companies and organizations with diversity but no inclusion.
  3. विविधता र समावेशीकरण समाजको हरेक स्तर र क्षेत्रमा आवश्यक छ। विविधता र समावेशीकरण केवल एक व्यक्तिको अधिकार मात्र नभई यो गर्न आवश्यक र सही कुरा पनि हो। यदि एक लिङ्ग, जाती, वा क्षेत्रले सम्पूर्ण समुदाय / विश्व प्रतिनिधित्व गर्दछ भने, त्यहाँ शक्तिको असंतुलन हुनेछ। विविधता र समावेशीकरणको अभावले समाजको अवास्तविक रुप प्रस्तुत गर्दछ। Diversity and inclusion are needed in every level and sector of society. D&I is not just an individual right; it is also the right thing to do. If one gender, ethnicity, race, or region represents the whole community/world, there will be an imbalance in power. Lack of D&I introduces artificiality or unreal representation of society.
  4. विविधता र समावेशीकरणको अभावमा नवीनताको पनि अभाव हुन्छ। यस्तो अवस्थामा कुनै पनि संगठन वास्तविकताबाट टाढा हुन जान्छ। Lack of diversity and inclusion leads to a lack of innovation. In such a situation, any organization becomes out of touch with reality.
  5. नेतृत्वमा भएका व्यक्तिहरु समाजको वास्तविकताबाट टाढा हुदा अस्तित्वगत संकटको संभावना बढ्छ। र यसले एक व्यक्तिलाई मात्र नभई सम्पूर्ण समाज र संगठनहरुलाई असर गर्दछ। When people in leadership positions are far from society’s reality, the possibility of existential crisis increases. And it does not just affect an individual; it affects the entire community and organization.
  6. अवस्थित अनुसन्धानको अनुसार विविधता र समावेशीकरणको उपस्थितिमा कुनै पनि कार्यस्थलको उत्पादकता बढ्छ। तर, विविधता र सहि अर्थमा समावेशता प्राप्त गर्न गाह्रो छ। यसको एक कारण सुदृढीकरणमा आधारित सामाजिक प्रणालीहरू हुन्। यस कारण, पहिले नै प्रतिनिधित्वमा रहेका मानिसहरूले समाजका कथनहरु लेख्छन् र यी कथनहरुमा नै हाम्रा युवा पुस्ताका आकांक्षा र उपलब्धिहरु आधारित हुन्छन्। तर समय र सामूहिक आवाजको साथ, हामी यी कथनहरू परिवर्तन गर्न सक्छौ। According to existing research, the presence of diversity and inclusion increases productivity in any workplace and organization. However, diversity and inclusion in the real sense are difficult to achieve. One of the reasons for this is because our social systems are made of reinforcing constructs. So, people who are already in the representation write the narratives, and the younger generation’s aspirations and achievements follow those narratives. But with time and collective voice, these narratives can be changed.

Apart from the things discussed above, Dr. Rai also touched on issues women and other underrepresented groups face in their careers and beyond. She also shared her personal experiences, all of which you can watch in the session’s full recording here.

Please let us know what you would want NWiC — EDUCATE to discuss next. NWiC — EDUCATE will hold its second session in January; please follow us on our socials to get the latest updates on the sessions and sign up for them.

This review was written by Shreeya Singh Dhakal, the Founder and Co-Advisor of Nepali Women in Computing.