- American Physical Society Sites
- Meetings & Events
- Policy & Advocacy
- Careers In Physics
- About APS
- Become a Member
A. Meet as a team
B. Readings on Shared Leadership
A central concept of the APS-IDEA model for cultural change is shared leadership. Shared leadership is a type of participatory democracy in which members of an organization or institution share power, obtain multiple perspectives, and provide internal accountability for outcomes affecting them. The AIP TEAM-UP report defines shared leadership as “an arrangement in which power and decision-making authority are shared among top-level leaders (e.g., department chairs) and individuals with the most to gain from change but the least power to achieve it themselves (e.g., students, or faculty working on behalf of students).” Shared leadership provides the traditionally voiceless an ongoing role in shaping discussion and decisions, so that they do not have to rely on invitations to be heard.
The implementation of shared leadership depends on the organizational context. For most teams in academia, sharing leadership means including students, postdocs, staff, and faculty as co-leaders and members of their team. For others, it means having staff work alongside administration in setting the agenda for change and collaboratively implementing and assessing progress in this change.
For many physicists, this model is familiar in research collaborations but unusual in departmental processes in which students and staff are not usually given leadership. Shared leadership can operate in many different contexts and with many variations in its implementation. We ask you to keep an open mind and consider the pros and cons of shared leadership in your context.
The starting point is to more fully understand the concept and its application. The four brief readings below provide perspectives on shared leadership of efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion in physics and related fields.The July 30 APS-IDEA workshop will build upon the readings below and your internal discussions.
Review and discuss an example of shared leadership in EDI: UC Berkeley Astronomy Department Climate Advisors program. Review their website. Then read and discuss the two paragraphs below, extracted from the report of the AAS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education, pp. 27–28. To construct their survey, the department engaged a shared leadership team of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty who collaborated across power differences.
“[T]he UC Berkeley Astronomy Department, working with experts in the university-wide Office for Equity and Inclusion, has established a participatory process for conducting annual climate surveys of its undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty and using the results to improve the department. Climate Advisors representing each group worked with the Office for Equity and Inclusion to create a survey, variations of which have been given annually since 2015. The results are disaggregated by social identity (though without intersections of these identities; the smaller size of an individual department severely limits intersectional analysis such as disaggregating by both gender and race/ethnicity). Their survey and action steps have been made public.
***The Berkeley study did not investigate in detail the mentoring of graduate students, or the persistence and retention of graduate students. Doing so, especially at the department level, is fraught because of the power dynamics and the worry students may have that any concerns raised might be used against them. Moreover, climate surveys are not ideal for gathering data with nuances in which individual stories are important or numbers of individuals in any group are small. For these reasons, we recommend that departments engage outside resources, for example, the AAS Climate Site Visits Program, when dealing with mentoring or serious climate challenges where power dynamics are an important factor. A Graduate Dean or Chief Diversity Officer can recommend other resources.”
Consider how the APS-IDEA Steering Committee demonstrates shared leadership. This is a group of seven physicists, ranging in traditional seniority from a graduate student to a senior professor, who have jointly developed a network of departmental change teams seeking to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion in their organizations. The team formed in October, 2019 and holds weekly videoconferences to create and support an international initiative involving about 100 departments, national labs, collaborations, and similar organizations in physics and related fields. Their implementation of shared leadership includes the following elements:
Read and discuss Sections III.A and III.D of G.M. Quan, et.al., “Designing for institutional transformation: Six principles for department-level interventions,” Physical Review-PER 15, 010141 (2019).
Note the very different contexts of the readings. Shared leadership can be usefully applied in many settings including, we hope, yours!