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June Pride Month recognizes progress in inclusivity

Becky Bosco, Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Optica

There are many facets of diversity—race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, culture, and even ideology. The scientific community organized shortly after the first Pride, with the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, now known as Out to Innovate, organizing as a society for LGBTQ+ professionals in STEM in 1983. Pride is now widely celebrated, and the journey to an inclusive optics and photonics community is ongoing.

Optica’s membership includes a diverse international population of students, scientists, engineers, and professionals. In our drive to continue forging the connections vital to solving societal challenges through light science and technology, we invest in a growing and impactful suite of funding, programming, and engagement opportunities supporting diversity and inclusion within the Optica community.

More diverse groups solve more problems, innovate more quickly and exercise more creativity than less diverse groups. This is because each team member brings a unique perspective toward problem-solving, with each drawing on their own unique experiences (Talia H Swartz and others, 2019).

The Optica Foundation annually recognizes individuals and organizations who lead in the advancement and celebration of diversity and inclusivity with a diversity and inclusion advocacy recognition. Optica members recognized continue to support inclusivity, move the industry forward, and celebrate with us during Pride.

“Diversity and inclusivity are core ICFOnian values, and we cultivate them as one of our most important assets,” said Rob Sewell, head of Academic Affairs at ICFO. “At ICFO, we reinforce the need for equitable practices across STEM when it comes to hiring, training, evaluating, and engaging scientists in all aspects of ICFO’s mission because institutional policies can differentially impact members of minority groups. Every member of our community brings something unique to ICFO, contributing widely diverse perspectives to achieve otherwise unimaginable advances.”

“When I started studying physics, I had the feeling that being gay was not an issue, but only in retrospective I realized that I didn't have any role models,” remarked Klaus Jäger, senior scientist, and deputy department head at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, Germany. “Many people consider Berlin as one of the LGBTQ capitals of the world because of the vibrant scene. At least before the pandemic, many people from all around the world came to Berlin to live or to spend at least a part of their time there. In 2019, we founded the network LGBTQ STEM Berlin together with colleagues and friends to support the local STEM community. Seeing that prominent scientific societies like Optica are actively supporting diversity made me more self-confident to push the visibility of LGBTQ people also within the German research environment.”

The connections between all of us as individuals, communities, and movements for justice have never been clearer or more critical. At Optica, we work to support our community to ensure people feel safe, supported, and have access to the resources they need to grow and develop. Practice inclusivity, speak out against harmful behavior in your organization, and, most importantly, continue to learn. Allyship requires commitment – an ongoing action - we can’t afford to pause. Everyone in our community deserves to feel valued and included.

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