Today at Berkeley Lab

Q&A With Lab’s New Diversity and Inclusion Officer Christel Cantlin

What is the main role of the Lab’s diversity and inclusion officer?

There are two primary components to this job: 1) compliance driven reporting to various government agencies and, 2) creating a diverse workforce through recruitment and hiring practices and a work environment that is inclusive.

What are some of the programs, activities, and services your office provides?

Annually we review statistical data of our workforce with the division directors.

We also support the Diversity and Inclusion Council with is comprised of representatives from each division. Its charter is to foster innovative actions that create an inclusive work environment and helps create a workforce that reflects and embraces the diversity of our community, nation and the world. The council hosts talks and performances, as well as the annual Cultural Festival.

In addition, we support the Women Scientists and Engineers Council. The group addresses issues that affect the careers of women scientists, engineers, and researchers. The WSEC and Berkeley Lab’s Human Resources Department management work in partnership to review strategies and priorities for recruitment, retention, work life balance, and development of women scientists and engineers. The group hosts quarterly seminars, which provide an opportunity to exchange ideas and network.

Does the Lab have some unique challenges related to diversity and inclusion?

I feel I should answer yes, but the truth is, the Lab is experiencing the same challenges as other national laboratories, academia, and much of private industry. For many years there has been a focus on building a diverse workforce – and there has been improvements. What we have left out was making certain there was a sense of inclusion once the workforce was diverse. I liken this to inviting someone to play a game but not sharing the house rules. I do not believe there is any ill intent, just a different environment for everyone. Awareness and communication does a lot to improve inclusion at all organizations.

How will you address those challenges?

I like to look around the Laboratory and see what is working well and hold that up as an example for others. I have found that if I can show a program that has been successful in a similar environment, the acceptance rate is high. I am also looking at the entire recruiting process, including marketing the position, the interview panels, the interview process, and hiring decisions. I am also interested in organic social activities. For example, I recently found out the ALS hosts cookie break for their staff once a week. This is a wonderful event that provides a forum to socialize with colleagues for a few minutes each week.

What are some of the goals you’ve set for your tenure at the Lab?

I want to make a positive impact on the diversity of the workforce and the inclusiveness of the work environment. I would like each employee to be our strongest advocates for recruiting. I want every employee to feel they work at the best national laboratory in the country. Not just because we perform cutting edge research, but because the Lab truly cares about its employees as individuals.

How can staff get involved or assist with the Lab mission of diversity and inclusion?

The best way is to ask their Diversity and Inclusion Council representative what they can do to assist in division and laboratory activities and practices. Staff can contact me to find out who their representative is.

Why do you like this kind of work?

I have a passion for creating opportunities for everyone. I grew up in a family with little opportunity to get out of the “cycle.” Others saw promise in me and helped me to develop to my full potential. I now want to do the same for others. A couple of my favorite quotes:

“Education is your ticket out of poverty” Stella Lopez-Armijo
“There is a special place in hell for women that don’t help other women” Madeleine Albright