Diversity Takes Practice
by Sandra Trice Gray
See the complete list of articles by Sandra Gray.
An inclusive organization doesn’t miraculously
appear. Here are 10 strategies
for taking charge to build one.
Dare I say it? Associations have the opportunity — and
the responsibility — to be models of communities that value and include
everyone. Easier said than done, perhaps. But not impossible. In my conversations
with leaders who are on the forefront of diversity initiatives, I’ve
collected some strategies for creating diverse and inclusive organizations.
- Care about diversity. Make diversity and inclusiveness
central to the core values of your association by adjusting work environments,
assignments, and career paths in ways that nurture all people.
- Institute inclusiveness. Increase the presence of women
and minorities in decision-making positions, and work to make diversity
and inclusiveness concerns part of your organization-wide training programs.
Recognize everyone — from the bottom to the top — for contributions made.
- Stretch your communication parameters. Opportunities
abound to learn from those whose communication styles differ from your
own. Remember that communication requires listening as well as speaking.
- Recognize and foster talent. Provide strong orientation
and training for all newcomers to help them become involved and successful.
Develop mentoring programs for populations that aren’t equally represented.
Find creative ways to nurture those who clearly have contributions to make
as future leaders.
- Learn from your critics. Find out how individuals feel
about the organization or others whom they believe are impeding their progress.
Be open to hearing others’ perspectives on what can be done to improve
- Understand what you can change. Identify the restraining
forces against achieving diversity within your organization. Strengthen
your own efforts to create an inclusive organization, and work to get others
to do the same.
- Conduct a diversity audit. Create a process whereby
you, staff, volunteers, and the larger membership determine the essential
questions to ask in a diversity audit, which seeks to identify strong and
weak areas with regard to where your association currently stands on its
diversity goals. Conduct the audit annually and ensure that it reviews
all programs, initiatives, and work structures.
- Establish clear goals. The more specific you can be,
the closer you can gauge your progress. For example, "at least 34
percent ethnic minority representation by 2004" is measurable.
- Form partnerships. Seek out organizations whose goals
for diversity complement the mission and goals of your own. Share ideas
and resources to discover mutual solutions.
- Implement an ongoing evaluation process. Don’t
ever think you’ve arrived. Continue to ask good questions: Who
else should hear this? Who should help us decide? How can we change what
we’re doing to come closer to our goals?
We as association executives must advance a view of
leadership that emphasizes community, diversity, and inclusiveness within
and beyond our associations if we hope to renew, advance, and serve society.
It is important that we institutionalize these ideals, because association
people — staff and members — take key values with them as they
move from organization to organization. This makes it possible for us to
change the very fabric of our nation through the inclusive process we practice