How to Accomplish Diversity and Equity Goals
By Yamonte Cooper
As career development professionals we often encounter or participate in discussions of diversity. Often diversity is measured in terms of the representation of differences (gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.), interracial contact, and human relations. The discourse around diversity commonly includes celebrating diversity, cross-racial relationships, color-blindness, enhancing access, and the cognitive and social benefits of having a diverse academic or corporate environment. Strategies to enhance or promote diversity include workshops, sensitivity training, the creating of inter-cultural centers or activities.
What tends to be missing from these conversations or actions is equity. Diversity in the form of demographic differences is important − but are your students, clients, and staff who make up your diverse group receiving equitable outcomes? Are the diverse students on your campus experiencing unequal educational outcomes? Are your diverse clients denied the opportunity for an interview and are they receiving unequal treatment at work? Is it demonstrated in their salary or opportunities for promotion? Is your diverse staff considered for leadership and growth opportunities? These conversations and actions need to move beyond diversity and into the realm of equity.
Meaningful and proactive change can occur when equity is taken into consideration along with diversity. The emphasis on equity moves beyond simply the representation of differences to institutional practices that foster equal educational and organizational outcomes for minority groups. Discourse includes institutional and organizational responsibility for student and employee outcomes, the manifestation of institutionalized racism, color-consciousness, awareness of racialized practices and their differential consequences, and awareness of white privilege. Inequality is viewed in the context of the history of exclusion, discrimination, and educational apartheid. Strategies to bring about equity involve institutional and organizational change, developing institutional and organizational accountability of its outcomes, and changing individuals’ biases and thoughts about diversity.
Steps To Move Towards Equity
Work environments that embrace diversity, inclusion and equity are able to maximize talent while utilizing various perspectives that bring value to the organization. The NCDA Committee on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion worked on several initiatives that made a positive impact on the organization. Others can benefit from following and implementing these recommendations:
A mission statement communicates the purpose of the organization. We discovered the need to update our committee’s mission statement to guide our work. We created the following:
“The Committee on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion works to raise awareness and promote equity and access within the membership and leadership of the National Career Development Association (NCDA). We seek to create an inclusive organization where diversity is viewed from an intersectional perspective, acknowledging the ways in which race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, age, gender identity & expression, mental and physical (dis)ability, sexual orientation, religion, and other identity categories exist along axes of power, privilege, and oppression. The committee aims to provide resources and training to educate and empower members regarding best practices related to diversity in career development practice and research and to serve as a hub for diversity conversations and initiatives within NCDA”.
Organizations can develop a powerful mission statement that communicates its purpose to its employees and stakeholders. This assures that work is informed by the mission statement.
It is important that access to resources for employees that specifically address diversity be available. The committee updated the NCDA Multicultural Resource List that includes citations for members to access relevant journal articles. Sections were created that include the following specific populations and settings: general multicultural career resources, workplace, African-American, Asian-American, Latino-American, Native-American, Gender, LGBTQI, Racism & Discrimination, (Dis)ability, Identity, Power, Globalization, Immigration, Religion & Spirituality, and Social Class. This resource list is an evolving document that is updated biannually. It demonstrates a commitment to the continual learning process of cultural sensitivity and humility.
Ethnically Diverse Keynote Speaker List and Leadership Academy
It is not uncommon for an organization to unconsciously send a message about who is welcomed and unwelcomed. This can be demonstrated in the ethnic makeup of the leadership, board members, and or the speakers invited to the organization. To assist in mitigating this issue as well as to prevent biased viewpoints, the committee developed an ethnically diverse keynote speaker list. In addition, it was recommended that the NCDA Leadership Academy be ethnically diversified. Organizations can apply the idea of an intentional ethnically diverse workforce to their hiring of leaders and other employees, electing board members, and inviting speakers and trainers.
It is important for people to see positive images of others who look like them. Not only is this affirming but it also conveys a message about who matters and in what context they matter. To ensure that all stakeholders feel welcome, the committee requested that there be more images of ethnically diverse members on the NCDA website and on its materials. Organizations can include positive imagery of ethnically diverse individuals on their websites and print materials.
Gender Neutral Restrooms
Gender neutral restrooms have recently made national headlines. Gender neutral restrooms convey an inclusive and welcoming safe space for any gender including gender nonconforming and transgender individuals. The committee recommended that a gender neutral restroom be available at the annual NCDA Conference. NCDA positively responded and ensured that this recommendation was implemented. Organizations can include gender neutral restrooms to create an inclusive and welcoming safe space.
Intentional Interventions and Measurable Outcomes
Creating a diverse and inclusive equitable environment is not simple or impossible. It takes intentional interventions with measurable outcomes. Diversity and equity work is a dynamic endeavor that is never done − it is an evolving process. A commitment to this ongoing work ensures that an organization is not only progressive but sensitive to what needs to be done to ensure diversity and equity.
Bensimon, E. (2005). Closing the achievement gap in higher education: An organizational learning perspective. New Directions for Higher Education, No. 131.
Dr. Yamonte Cooper is an associate professor of counseling and a faculty coordinator of the El Camino College Career Center. During his doctoral studies he had the opportunity to work with higher education programs and institutions in Botswana. In 2014, Dr. Cooper was honored with a prestigious Fulbright International Education Administrator Seminar Award in Germany. He is the president of the California Career Development Association (CCDA) and serves as chair for the NCDA Committee on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion. Dr. Cooper can be contacted at email@example.com.