But if we want to increase diversity in op ed writing and thought leadership, we can learn a thing or two from America’s favourite astrophysicist.
Why do we hear from such a narrow range of voices in the world? Why are the overwhelming majority of thought leaders male, white, straight western, and socioeconomically privileged? You might not think the op ed pages have a lot to do with rocket science, but they do. In an old video that recently went viral, Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the new series of Cosmos, and America’s Nerdiest Dreamboat (Dreamboatiest Nerd? Both) tackles the question of why there are so few women in higher maths and sciences. That question had been raised, in rather controversial fashion, by then-President of Harvard, Larry Summers, who speculated that is might have something to do with “intrinsic biological aptitude.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson tells a different story. He can’t speak to the cultural barriers faced by women in STEM sciences (or in other forms of thought leadership, like op ed writing), but he could speak to the ones he faced as a Black man.
DeGrasse Tyson’s bottom line: “Before you start talking about genetic differences, you gotta come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity. Then we can have that conversation.” Something tells me that once we come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity, we’ll realize that we don’t need to have that conversation at all.