As director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, I often have an opportunity to write or speak about the incredible science and technology that we perform on behalf of the nation. Each day, our extraordinary staff make scientific discoveries, improve energy resiliency, and enhance national security. They are the key to our success and a reason why I am optimistic about our future.
One of my major responsibilities is to ensure that PNNL continues to attract and retain world-class talent. This means having a diverse workforce and an inclusive work environment. At PNNL we are striving to improve diversity and inclusion — not to be politically correct, but because both are essential to our success as a national laboratory.
We need a workforce that is diverse with respect to technical disciplines, social styles, and cultural backgrounds, as well as gender, race, national origin, and sexual orientation. Such diversity enhances creativity that is essential to cutting-edge research at PNNL, and inclusion means we tap the potential of all individuals to deliver the amazing science and technology you expect of us.
Our ability to attract a diverse workforce depends on many factors, including the opportunity to work with exceptional colleagues in state-of-the-art facilities on important national challenges. Another factor, however, is the community. Our employees want to be part of a vibrant and welcoming community. They want to know that they and their families can make a home here. This was important to me when I made the decision to join PNNL in 2008: my wife is an immigrant and we have two mixed-race children. We have been welcomed and respected, and for that I am appreciative.
Unfortunately, not all of our employees feel welcome in their adopted community. Recently, a few of our staff and their families were made to feel unsafe and unwanted because of real or perceived differences. These incidents undermine our reputation as a welcoming place that embraces diversity. These incidents may be few in number, but their impact is profound — not just on the targeted individuals, but on all of us who feel betrayed by these shameful acts against those who are working hard to make our world a better place. I and others feel compelled to speak out in support of our colleagues and neighbors, and I hope you will, too.
We need to do more than call out injustice, however. We should promote diversity and let all know that our community values it. Toward this end, I ask my fellow community leaders to join me in a commitment to more visibly celebrate and value diversity in all its forms. By speaking with one voice we can assure that everyone can call our community home.
Steven Ashby is director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and a columnist for the Tri-City Herald.