Improving Diversity & Inclusion: ASHG’s New Policy Statement

March 2020

Dana Crawford, PhD
Chair, Diversity & Inclusion Task Force

In May 2019, ASHG leadership released the Society’s 2019-23 Strategic Plana document driving the next few years of Society priorities that outlines key avenues to advance the field and benefit members. To help achieve the Society’s vision that people everywhere realize the benefits of human genetics and genomics research, we understood that diversity and inclusion would need to be a priority.  

There is a growing recognition that when the genetic diversity of humans is better reflected in research, there can be greater equity, accuracy, and utility of genetic applications. This also underscores the need for the public to better appreciate our shared genetic heritage as a species – that while we should celebrate the differences that make each of us unique, we are unified as humans and more than 99% of our DNA is identical. 

As a Board, we agreed that ASHG can and should play a leadership role in valuing, driving, and embodying diversity in genetics and genomics. Our sincere message for geneticists is that everyone belongs and is welcome. Diverse perspectives strengthen our community and are vital to achieving ASHG’s vision that people everywhere realize the benefits of human genetics and genomics. 

To this end, we approved the following objectives at the October 2019 Board Meeting 

  • Increase ASHG’s role in expanding diversity within the field 
  • Increase the diversity of ASHG membership 
  • Increase the diversity of ASHG’s volunteer leaders at all levels 
  • Promote diverse population participation in genetics and genomics research to better reflect the diversity of all humans 

To help uphold and achieve these objectives, a two-year Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was formed. The Task Force reports to the Board and has a designated liaison to each Committee, ensuring that its important values are interwoven into existing and new activities across the organization.  

Its first task was to articulate the Society’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by publishing a Diversity and Inclusion Policy StatementIn assembling the statement, the Task Force gave thought and scrutiny to defining each goal, making them specific and actionable through efforts in the next three to five years, and considering how they might impact the ASHG community as well as the general public. The Board then provided feedback and comments, prior to approving the statement and distributing it to members in January. 

Since then, members of the Task Force have met with Committees as they form action plans for future programs and activity, conveying and discussing the principles outlined in the statement. They have also sought feedback from the member community on ways to build upon the statement. 

Building an inclusive community is attainable, and we believe we are headed in the right direction for a new decade. We can and will do it together, and to this end, we encourage members to review the statement and explore ways to contribute individually to our larger shared goals as an organization and a society. We look forward to continuing to engage with members in this important effort. 

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