I am very grateful to ETS (the Evangelical Theological Society) for awarding me a student scholarship so that I could attend their annual conference this past week. Not only was it an extraordinary opportunity to hear from and dialogue with a group of scholars who were new to me, but it was also a great honor to be able to participate in ETS’s commitment to increasing diversity within the society.
The student scholarship is awarded to members of underrepresented groups and/or those who would find participation in ETS to be economically prohibitive. Women and people of color are underrepresented in the field of biblical studies in general, and the problem is particularly pronounced for ETS currently. ETS is taking important steps to address this imbalance by offering this scholarship, as well as by holding the Women’s Coffee Hour event, and by offering sessions devoted to issues of gender and race (this year: Evangelicals and Gender, Asian/Asian American Theology, and Other Voices).
In addition to continuing these amazing efforts, I would love to see ETS explore other intentional ways of promoting diversity in the society.
At the conference level, adding a women’s and/or ethnic minorities’ breakfast, lunch, networking opportunity, and/or lounge would be some possible options. If one or more of these are added, I would encourage the events to be scheduled in such a way that a woman of color could attend both, rather than having to choose between two parts of her identity.
Within the leadership of program units, it would be wonderful for more papers to continue to be actively sought out from women and ethnic minorities. This is a place where leaders within their own fields and specialities can make a big difference in the atmosphere of the conference.
Having even just one woman or person of color speaking on a panel or within a group of papers can have a big impact on the tenor of the conversation.
Individual presenters can also contribute by paying attention to the identities of the other scholars being engaged in their paper.
The work of women and people of color should be consulted during the research process for balanced and nuanced interpretation, and these scholars’ names should be cited aloud as appropriate, especially where their analysis is supported. Even if women and ethnic minorities are not present in the room in body, they can still be present through the presentation of their thoughts.
Finally, even small displays of sexism or racism, such as microagressions, should be respectfully countered or corrected, especially by men and white individuals. That privilege provides a level of comfort and authority that can be leveraged positively when it is used to uplift and defend those with less privilege.