International prize for encouraging diversity

11 September 2018
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Dr Frederique Vanholsbeeck

Promoting gender parity in conference speaker line-ups and helping the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland win an award for promoting diversity and inclusivity have won Dr Frederique Vanholsbeeck an award from the Optical Society of America (OSA).

The OSA Diversity & Inclusion Advocacy award recognises outstanding dedication and accomplishments from organisations and individuals that foster greater appreciation, advancement, and celebration of diversity and inclusivity in optics and photonics.

As a senior lecturer in Physics at the University, Dr Vanholsbeeck says it’s important to make practical changes and to take action at an individual level as well as advocating at an organisational level for all members of the University from students to senior staff.

“It’s not just about focusing on student scholarship but looking at anything in a student’s situation that could be impeding progress. It’s up to all of us to look at the systems and processes we use to ensure they are as inclusive as possible.”

Dr Vanholsbeeck chairs the diversity committee in the Department of Physics and has been instrumental in pushing initiatives that made it possible for the Department to win the Bronze Pleiades Award from the Astronomical Society of Australia’s (ASA), Inclusive, Diverse and Equitable astronomy (IDEA) chapter.

Ensuring diversity in speaker line-ups and conference panels is important in recognising and promoting diversity, she says, and she has previously requested prize applications be re-opened to ensure better diversity. She says scientific societies should have strong diversity policies, and events that promote diversity and inclusivity should be prioritised for sponsorship.

Australian Optical Society president Professor Simon Fleming said he was delighted the prize was awarded to Dr Vanholsbeeck.

“This award is based not only on her influence on the practices of the University but also more generally on New Zealand and Australia science in helping promote a positive image to a wide diversity of students.”

Dr Vanholsbeeck will accept the award at a function in Washington in the United States during the OSA annual meeting: Frontiers in Optics.


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