My D&I Journey
Updated: Aug 8, 2019
I recently had an opportunity to give a presentation on Diversity and Inclusion at the closing session of the DFWAE A-Day. Originally the plan was to gather various industry professionals to share their experiences in addressing D&I in their organizations. I quickly ran into a challenge that no one wanted to participate for various reasons. The core theme wasn’t that they didn’t believe in D&I, rather they didn’t see themselves as a leader or making a change that would be of value to share with others. I took this information and structured the session around it. Here is what came out of that.
First, I must say that of any session I’ve presented on; this was the most difficult for me to give to date. The reason for this is it was the most personal for me. My delivery focused on my journey and what I’ve learned along the way. I was concerned about how I my message would be perceived based on my physical appearance. Most people don’t expect someone who’s skin tone like mine (Caucasian, white) to get up and talk about D&I. What ran through my head was them saying "What does this white guy know about the Diversity and Inclusion?" So, I shared with them the multi-layers of myself that contribute to my voice. I’m a white, 39, cisgender, gay male. Those are the easiest to define. Some of my experiences that contribute to that are growing up in a small farm community in Missouri were the livestock outnumbered the human population. I am a first-generation college graduate on my mothers’ side of the family. While I’ve been in association management for over fifteen years, I’m currently in my first role as CEO. I used these descriptions to outline that we all have various experiences lending to a unique voice that can and needs to be heard. This is at the core of what D&I is.
As we struggle to have these conversations and actions towards D&I, I wanted to point out the three items I believe are important on this topic.
1. Have clear and easy definitions of D&I to reference in your organization.
2. D&I starts with you. If you aren’t working to move it forward, you cannot expect
others to do it.
3. We need to learn to celebrate the small things that move progress forward.
I could go deeper into each of these and I probably will in future blog posts. For now, I’ll pause here. As I reflect on everything, I’m not sure that I see myself as a D&I advocate. I do know that I need to learn more myself through research and experiences. From that learning, I need to implement ideas I have in my own life and organization focused on diversity, inclusion, and equality. I realize that I have the opportunity and a responsibility to make sure those that are underrepresented are given a chance to participate in a way that is of value and meaning to them. We cannot expect change if we don’t lead the change.
Here we are in 2019 and still talking about D&I. In some cases, you would think that this shouldn’t be an issue anymore. On the other hand, there are so many ways humanity is self-identifying that the conversation is ever evolving. I do not see a solution to this as it is something that doesn't have a specific end goal but rather an evolutionary moving target. The best place to start is with a conversation and build from there. I share this in hopes that something resonates with you to engage you in D&I discussions if you aren’t already.