Volume 38 Number 1 | February 2024

Victoria Roop, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Today Volunteer Contributor

Victoria RoopDiversity can mean so many things for so many people. So where do we start? First, let’s dig into the definition. According to the Oxford English Language Dictionary, diversity means, “The state of being diverse, variety.” And “The practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.” Some other diverse proxies can also include education, religion, social or economic background, and nationality and/or region of a country. With a better understanding of what the word actually means we can dive into the complexities that follow and ask ourselves, what does it mean to be diverse in the laboratory and how can we set and achieve goals to promote a diverse workplace?

Everyone is unique, finding their own journeys and having their own stories to tell. Regardless of what background we all came from, we somehow found ourselves working at some capacity in the laboratory sciences field of medicine. We found common ground! That is the first step. The second step is to acknowledge we all have our own unintentional bias and to challenge these thought biases. History has shown us that bias and racism often challenge or hinder our abilities to work together. Once we can accept that we have differences, and realize we have some things in common, we can start to accept everyone for who they are.

“The goal is to get it right, not be right”
–Brene Brown

To bring diversity to the laboratory, we must all encourage openness, intentionally asking for other people’s thoughts and ideas. Be consistent and intentional. Have empathy and transparency when it comes to interacting with your fellow laboratorians. Some of the best ideas come from existing differences to then create something completely new. Take for instance, the Punnett Square. When you have two different genotypes (Gg and Yy) and you line them up on a graph, you can clearly see the potential combination of genotypes you can have (GY, Gy, gY, gy). This creates a whole new outcome you did not see before. Same goes for diversity.

If I have an idea (let’s call it A) and my coworker has an idea (let’s call that B) and we look at both of our ideas, we may find that neither actually works on their own but together (AB) makes more sense. When people feel heard they will be more open and willing to speak up. They start to bring their different viewpoints to the forefront. This in turn can have a domino effect when others can build upon these different ideas and the outcome ends up with a collaborative plan.

“The goal is to get it right, not be right” (Brene Brown). Now that we know what diversity means within the laboratory, how do we measure it? We must be aware that representation across underrepresented groups is not enough. We need to be careful that different outward appearances can still provide similar thought processes. To truly unlock diversity, you need to create a culture that is open to thinking outside the box and allowing each other to be creative. We need to have the ability to listen—actually stop and listen. Be open to different opinions from your own. Ask questions, engage, and self-reflect. We can utilize tools such as surveys to gauge employees’ perspectives. We can celebrate our differences with holidays and/or create our own, such as Medical Laboratory Professionals Week! The easiest thing to focus on is increasing representation from underrepresented groups, but the true impact is creating a collaborative culture where everyone can feel like they belong and are welcomed. We can show each other support no matter age, gender, race, religion, education, social status, etc. The wider the net you cast, the more likely you are to catch fish.

  1. Oxford University Press (2021) Oxford English Dictionary. https://www.oed.com/. Accessed 16 Nov 2023
  2. Bassner, Sherri L., and Full Profile. “The Power of Diversity in the Lab.” Lab Manager, 21 June 2021, www.labmanager.com/the-power-of-diversity-in-the-lab-26130.
  3. O’Neil, Dennis. “Probability of Inheritance.” Basic Principles of Genetics: Probability of Inheritance, Palomar College, 2012, www.palomar.edu/anthro/mendel/mendel_2.htm.
  4. Elzie, Darryl. “Celebrating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Lab.” Today’s Clinical Lab, 1 Sept. 2021, www.clinicallab.com/trends/diversity-equity-and-inclusion-inthe-clinical-lab/celebrating-diversity-equity-and-inclusionin-the-lab-25899.

Victoria Roop is a Medical Laboratory Scientist Blood Bank Lead at the Door County Medical Center in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.