Diversity and Inclusion in Forensic Anthropology Where We Stand and Prospects for the Future

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Sean D. Tallman
Cate E. Bird


Diversity and inclusion have proven vital for increasing innovation, success, and performance in a myriad of fields; however, as with many other scientific disciplines, forensic anthropology’s history and lack of critical self-assessment have resulted in impediments to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment. Therefore, the field should reflect on its current membership and culture and devise strategies to address deficiencies. To begin evaluating the current state of diversity and inclusion in forensic anthropology, a survey was distributed to Anthropology Section members of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) in 2018. A total of 211 students and professionals responded, and 32.4% self-identified as a member of an underrepresented group. The results indicate that 63.4% believe that forensic anthropology exhibits little diversity; that 73.4% consider this lack of diversity problematic; and that 84.3% believe the Anthropology Section should do more to recruit and retain diverse forensic anthropologists. Heterogeneity is perceived to be the greatest at the undergraduate level, with diversity decreasing in vertical movement through graduate, postdoctoral, and/or professional statuses. Moreover, the results suggest that discrimination and exclusion have a negative effect on our community, as they may lead to attrition of those with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. We propose actions that may help to mitigate the negative effects of meritocracy, discrimination/harassment, and exclusion to evolve toward a culture of diversity. These include regularly tracking demographic information on AAFS membership, reassessing graduate admissions requirements and indicators of success, creating mechanisms for reporting discrimination/harassment, implementing targeted outreach, and developing mentorship opportunities.

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