by Jessica Keller and Amanda Evans
A few weeks before the Women’s March on Washington, a panel was held at the annual SHA conference in Fort Worth, Texas regarding gender equality in the fields of diving and archaeology. Titled “Women in Diving and Archaeology: Past, Present, and Future” the panel’s four organizers, Jessica Keller, Abigail Casavant, Tricia Dodds, and Grace Tsai facilitated an engaging conservation between the audience and panel members: Toni Carrell, Amanda Evans, William Lees, Sheli Smith, Melanie Damour, Peggy Leshikar-Denton, Amy Mitchell-Cook, Wendy Van Duivenvoorde, Amy Borgens, Brandi Carrier, Lynn Harris, Melissa Price, and Hannah Piner.
This panel featured a diverse group of underwater archaeological professionals who discussed different perspectives, experiences, and possible approaches to the challenges, issues, and gender inequality that people have faced in our field. The ACUA core principles of ethics, respect, diversity, and equality demand vigilant effort as we continue to advance the discipline. Unfortunately, current events have highlighted a variety of gender issues that impact our profession. In order to address these problems head on, the panel organizers sought to create actionable items to take to the ACUA and SHA Board of Directors for implementation.
Questions were compiled beforehand by the organizers to spark discussion amongst the panel members and attendees. Audience participation was hesitant at first, but evolved into a relaxed and open atmosphere that fostered questions. It was clear that almost everyone, panelists and audience members alike, had experienced some form of discrimination or harassment. The real discussion became – what can we do about it. Most encouraging of all was that this was not a panel just for women. Attendance, which was standing room only, represented genuine diversity among ages, genders, and careers.
As a direct result of the panel, a number of recommendations and action items have been developed. While the discussion emphasized the impact of relatively simple actions, such as supporting one another and being kind, more systemic ideas have been proposed. Mentorship was a main point of discussion and one that was taken to the ACUA. A pilot mentorship program is being created for the SHA conference in 2018. This program will take established volunteers and pair them up with a number of mentees during SHA to facilitate introductions, provide career advice, and help mentees get the most out of their conference experience. Eventually, the goal for this mentorship program is to extend it beyond the conference, so that those of us moving up in our careers can help bring the next generation forward. A big thank you to all attendees of this panel! We are looking forward to what the future will hold for gender equality and the role of mentorship programs. Remember to stand up and support your colleagues. Thanks again!