For some, it is too easy to dismiss, for reasons other than merit, another's skills or expertise. Much research has been done about implicit bias, diminished expectations, and systematic disadvantages for under-represented communities. For communities, such as the information distribution one, where the majority of participants are female, it is a problem that there are not more women in leadership positions. Even as I make this point, from a leadership position, I'm conscious of the many qualified female and minority professionals who could take over my role.
However, it seems, with the appointment of Carla Hayden as the new Librarian of Congress, like another large crack has been made in our community's glass ceiling. Librarian Hayden, who is the first African American to hold her position, has long been a champion of intellectual freedom and of access to information. She's especially interested in library outreach in the community and extending library services outside the walls of the institution. Always a forward thinker, Hayden will have a positive and transformative impact on her august institution. While her record of success, advocacy, and community impact made her the obvious choice for this role, change comes all too slowly in positions where tenures are measured in multiples of decades. Appointing a woman, or a woman of color, to a leadership role shouldn't be a point of celebration, it should be an everyday fact in our industry, because there are so many worthwhile candidates. Sadly, we are not yet in that world, but we are making progress.
Librarian Hayden is not alone in her leadership work in information distribution. Like many other organizations, NISO has been fortunate over the years to have diversity in its leadership ranks. At present, of the six co-chairs of NISO's leadership committees, four are women. A majority of the NISO working groups are co-chaired by women. At an executive level, NISO has been led by many brilliant women over its time. NISO's Board has consistently been an impressive group. including such leaders as: Henriette Avram, Karen Hunter, Shirley Baker, Sally McCallum, Patricia Berger, Jan Fleming, and many, many others. As well, NISO was under the skilled leadership of Patricia Harris for two decades before I joined the organization. There are many forms of diversity that NISO seeks to incorporate into our efforts, gender being only one, and we try to incorporate this in our staffing, in our outreach, even in our standards work.
Unfortunately, the technology world in general hasn't been nearly as welcoming. Despite their tremendous contributions, women and members of other underrepresented groups have often been dismissed, belittled, or worse in this industry. (In that vein, I recommend a new book, Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures, which chronicles the contributions of African American women mathematicians at NASA during the 1950s, '60s and '70s.) It's past time to change conditions in IT and highlight the varied and valuable contributions of all workers in that field.
After librarian Bobbi Newman recently compiled a public list of "Female Technology Experts in Libraries," I contacted her with some suggestions of others from the NISO community who should be added.There were many others whom I would have also suggested, except they don't work in libraries. NISO brings together a diverse set of information professionals and we, as a community, are all the better for their efforts. If we are to support greater diversity in leadership, we should do more to recognize the contributions of those doing great work and highlight their achievements to create a rewarding and enriching environment for all.