Some discussions began by asking the group how to promote inclusivity or diversity but with the caveat that we would not “be diverse for diversity's sake." Instead, we should hire and promote qualified professionals. Whatever their color.
Diversity’s been on my mind from the childhood moment when I put one and one together and came up with my own queer number to the uncomfortable moments when a privileged white student who’d hung a confederate flag in his dorm room across from my own tried to convince me that he wasn’t racist. Not even when he adamantly and openly opposed affirmative action in class.
He argued then, like many others now, that we are past the trials of discrimination and its consequences.
The morning I listened as ASAE’s President John Graham delivered his opening message about the importance of inclusion and diversity in associations across the nation. I also scrolled through my newsfeed scanning strings of headlines about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Soon after, we’d all learn about the police department’s lack of black officers and how black residents accounted for the majority of vehicle stops and arrests made by Ferguson police from those stops.
But these numbers aren’t an anomaly. In police departments, boardrooms, workplaces across the nation, diversity is skewed.
For nonprofits, a national study produced in partnership by CommonGood Careers & Level Playing Field Institute in 2011 pronounced a gap in nonprofit governance is present, where only 14% of board members are people of color. The gap persisted in organizational leadership. According to the 2006 report by the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, up to 84% of nonprofits are led by whites.
While Fortune 500 Companies and others may employ a more diverse workforce, they are cultivating leaders at an alarmingly slow pace. The Center for American Progress’ 2012 report shows that people of color make up nearly one-third of the labor force; women make up nearly half. However, the Alliance for Board Diversity released a report on Fortune 500 Boards that showed between 2010 -2012 white males continued to dominate Fortune 500 boards, accounting for approximately 73% of total board seats.
Nonprofits, private businesses, and associations continue to advance how they operate and utilize the newest technological tools to streamline, communicate and even structure the workplace. And because we are all living and working in a world of this type progress, I can see how many people (especially white men and women) think we should be past the discrimination felt by marginalized communities.
But we aren’t.
And we won’t be until we all stop pretending that discrimination and prejudice doesn’t influence our behaviors, motivations, relationships and workplace environments.
"The Center for American Progress’ 2012 report shows that people of color make up nearly one-third of the labor force; women make up nearly half...white males continued to dominate Fortune 500 boards, accounting for approximately 73% of total board seats"
Leaders who value inclusion and diversity make efforts to think about what that really means by considering these questions:
- Does your organization's leadership reflect the diversity of its constituents/customers?
- How are you identifying and growing leaders in your organization?
- How are your policies and procedures promoting inclusivity among your staff?
- How often are you having meaningful conversation about diversity and inclusion?
And not just having the conversation for the conversations’ sake.
Firozi, Paulina. "5 Things to Know about Ferguson Police Department."Usatoday.com. USA Today, 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/08/14/ferguson-police-department-details/14064451/>.
Ashkenas, Jeremy, and Haeyoun Park. "The Race Gap in America’s Police Departments." The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Sept. 2014. Web. 22 Sept. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/03/us/the-race-gap-in-americas-police-departments.html?smid=fb nytimes&smtyp=cur&bicmp=AD&bicmlukp=WT.mc_id&bicmst=1409232722000&bicmet=1419773522000&_r=0>.