Over the past two years, members of the FIRST Canada Youth Council have been working to strengthen the FIRST community’s mission to put Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at the forefront of all robotics discussions. We started an initiative called DiversityFIRST in our inaugural year to showcase the achievements of racialized global leaders in STEM from history and the present, beginning with Katherine Johnson, Elijah McCoy and Indra Nooyi, all of whose profiles are on the FIRSTCanada Instagram under the hashtag #DiversityFIRST.
During the summer of 2020, we extended our initiative to highlight Black Women in STEM to pay homage to the Black Lives Matter movement and promote discussion around the impressive but often unrecognized contributions of Black women to STEM fields.
In the fall, Maria, Mehak, and Namirah went on FIRST Canada LIVE! to spark a conversation around critical terminology with the Black Lives Matter movement and a greater discussion of racism, equity, and equality. On this panel, we spoke to the meaning of racialization, discussed anti-racism work in the context of our schools, and engaged with our audience to request input for our future Diversity FIRST initiatives.
This year, we commenced Black History Month with focusing DiversityFIRST on Black Canadians, including Mary Ann Shadd and Viola Desmond, whom we promoted across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. To stimulate meaningful and respectful conversations during and beyond Black History Month, we accompanied profiles with the Let’s Talk Terminology series, explaining terms such as “marginalized”, “intercultural competency”, and “equality”. We also hosted a panel to broaden our promotion of diversity and shared our experiences with adversity and allyship on the International Day of Women in Science.
Today, we continue to move forward in making conversation around EDI and action a priority in the form of panels, posts and supporting dialogue around equity work with our Council. At our upcoming panel in March with Dr. Janell Catlin, Director of EDI at FIRST HQ, we look forward to sharing the action the global FIRST community is taking to combat all forms of discrimination, and evaluating the pivotal role of FIRST Canada in leading these objectives.
Below, some members share something they’ve learned through their time on this subcommittee:
Namirah: I first learned of the term allyship at Dr. Imogen Coe’s workshop during the Girls in FIRST weekend in 2019. Almost two years later, I am proud and fortunate to work to deepen my own and our shared understanding of allyship on the Council and throughout FIRST Canada to one that considers our diverse and intersectional identities as part of a global. robotics community.
Hridi: Being able to help expand equity, diversity and inclusion across FIRST and beyond has given me the platform to provide others with representation and an environment they feel welcome in. I learned about how to combat adversity and about how to speak up for others who may face it. This experience has taught me how important it is to consider intersectionality when talking about race, gender and class because different groups face different challenges and it is important to recognize that this difference exists. Overall, it is vital that we keep environments diverse for all people, to encourage a safe and secure place for all in our communities, workplaces, teams and classrooms.
Maria: Learning the term intercultural competency. It helped me summarize the process of how allyship works and provide tips in discussions around what it means to be an ally.
Julia: This initiative has really helped me to develop my learning and further my understanding regarding Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. I have had the chance to participate in meaningful conversations and hopefully spread some knowledge about what it means being an ally. I have also learned about the importance to always be learning and expanding my knowledge regarding Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
Through the FIRST Canada Youth Council and my time on this subcommittee, I learned the importance of continuous learning and how it is okay to not know, but you must educate yourself. Thus, sharing an inclusive space to reflect on your own opinions, and biases, that may be detrimental to certain communities, is a critical part of understanding EDI.
As for now, the Youth Council will continue to make strides in hopes of truly reaching the FIRST vision of an equitable community for all.