“Maydianne Andrade: From Groundbreaking Science to Empowering Black Scientists”
In the intricate tapestry of academia, Maydianne Andrade has not only etched her name through groundbreaking discoveries but is now passionately wielding her influence to empower the next generation of Black scientists.
As a professor of biological sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, Dr. Andrade’s journey weaves through the realms of evolutionary ecology, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), leaving an indelible mark on both scientific knowledge and the quest for a more inclusive academic landscape.
Dr. Andrade’s foray into EDI began with a stark presentation of facts to her academic colleagues, addressing the underrepresentation of women and visible minorities in Canadian universities.
Armed with data and personal stories, she illuminated the deep-seated structural racism and bias within academia, urging her peers to recognize the urgency of the issue.
Her approach, blending data-driven insights with personal narratives, struck a chord, especially post-George Floyd’s murder, reinforcing the human dimension of the challenge.
Her “iceberg slide” snapshot of a career spanning over two decades serves as a powerful visual, exposing the often unconscious biases ingrained in academic settings.
Having achieved a Ph.D. in neurobiology and behavior from Cornell University in 2000, Dr. Andrade’s groundbreaking research on male Australian redback spiders challenged prevailing assumptions, propelling her into the limelight of scientific acclaim.
Recognized in the “Brilliant 10” list by Popular Science in 2005, she became a leading authority on cannibalistic spiders.
Transitioning into academia, Dr. Andrade’s frustration about racism and bias in Canadian institutions led her to initiate the Toronto Initiative for Diversity and Excellence (TIDE) in 2016. https://www.toronto-tide.ca/
Dr. Andrade’s hands-on involvement as co-chair and senior staff administrator reflects her commitment to fostering institutional change.
TIDE’s success story unfolded when the department of mechanical and industrial engineering sought guidance on inclusive faculty searches.
Dr. Andrade’s collaborative and constructive approach influenced the department’s hiring practices, resulting in the appointment of two Black female professors – a testament to the impact of intentional and informed strategies.
In 2020, Dr. Andrade expanded her advocacy by co-founding the Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN). Born out of a spreadsheet listing Black Canadian scientists, CBSN has grown into a dynamic network with nearly 1,000 members.
Driven by the mission to increase representation in STEM fields, CBSN provides a sense of community for Black scientists, fostering connections and supporting each other in a field where isolation is a common challenge.
Through CBSN, Dr. Andrade introduced the annual “Black Excellence in STEMM” conference (BE-STEMM), a transformative event that resonated deeply with attendees.
Participants found solace in a shared experience, breaking free from the isolation often felt as the only Black person in professional spaces.
As Dr. Andrade reflects on her tireless efforts, she emphasizes the need for succession planning to ensure sustained progress in EDI initiatives.
Despite the challenges of juggling multiple roles, including leading TIDE and CBSN while managing a lab, supervising students, and contributing to media discussions, Dr. Andrade remains driven by the impact she witnesses – young Black scientists reconsidering leaving the field, inspired by the supportive community forged through initiatives like BE-STEMM and CBSN.
In a world that demands systemic change, Maydianne Andrade stands as a catalyst, not just for scientific innovation but for the transformation of academic spaces into inclusive environments where the next generation of Black scientists can thrive.
Black Wall St. MediaContributor