Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Education Is Your Association’s Calling & Responsibility

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

      ~Maya Angelou

As leaders in your industry, associations have a responsibility to help their staff, volunteers, and members know and do better. By providing diversity, equity and inclusion education, you set an example for others in your industry and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to advance in their career.  

How to provide diversity, equity and inclusion education to your community

When developing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) educational initiatives and programs for staff, volunteer leaders, and members, don’t ask or expect Black employees to take on the responsibility for leading these efforts. Najoh Tita-Reid, senior executive of marketing reinvention at Logitech, said, “Black people did not create these problems, so please do not expect us to resolve them alone. After all, we are exhausted.”

You could certainly purchase diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs from a third-party, but they won’t be tailored to your industry or profession. Instead, we suggest working with a DEI consultant to develop an online education curriculum and other DEI learning programs.

Virtual learning programs

Virtual learning is the only option right now, but even when in-person events return, e-learning has its advantages:

•    Consistency in delivery and instruction.
•    Sustainable in any conditions.
•    Content can be updated easily.
•    Ideal for staff and volunteer leader onboarding.
•    Convenient from anywhere and at any time.
•    Accessible to those who can’t or won’t travel.
•    Learner participation and completion can be tracked.

What do you teach in your DEI programs? We’re no experts, but consider these topics:

•    Setting cultural expectations and modeling behavior.
•    Collecting data and conducting assessments.
•    Changing processes, policies, practices, and traditions.
•    Setting goals, developing strategy, and measuring progress.
•    Becoming an ally.

Chapters can play an essential role in delivering both virtual and in-person education. Work together to design an in-person curriculum for chapters.

You could also generate licensing revenue by developing industry-specific programs that member (and non-member) companies can deliver to their management and staff.

diversity, equity and inclusion education

Subject matter experts

The education department has a critical role in bringing Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) expertise and voices to your association’s audience as instructional designers, keynote speakers, session presenters, event hosts/moderators, and online instructors.

Your colleagues who manage other programs—such as government affairs, component relations, governance and leadership development, publications, websites, membership, marketing, and social media—have the same responsibility to bring these voices forward.

Leadership development programs

What do the numbers tell you about your association’s leadership? Does it reflect the demographic makeup of your industry or market?

If it doesn’t, it’s time to rethink how you’re recruiting and engaging volunteers and leaders because the traditional ways are not working. Set and publicize targets if you want to make real progress.

Consider establishing a group of leadership scouts with large networks who can ask for referrals and personally invite people to get involved. Offer online leadership development training free to members. These leadership programs are a valuable membership benefit and will help your association, chapters, and industry develop a more diverse leadership pipeline.

Virtual town halls

Virtual town halls can be a forum for discussing DEI issues on an individual,  association, or industry level. Here are some recent examples we found:

•    The Ohio Society of CPAs
•    Kentucky REALTORS®
•    The American Academy of Family Physicians

Town halls can include:

•    Presentations from DEI consultants
•    Updates from leaders on assessments and action steps
•    Panel discussions featuring new or different perspectives
•    Q&As
•    Opportunities for members to share insights and stories

Book clubs and discussion groups

DEI and anti-racism aren’t one-and-done initiatives. Keep these issues top-of-mind by hosting monthly or bimonthly book clubs. Pick and sell books from one of the many reading lists you can find online, for example:

•    Anti-racism Guide
•    Racial Equity Resources

You could even bundle a selection of books at a discount for regular book club members.

The book Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad “takes readers on a 28-day journey, complete with journal prompts, to do the necessary and vital work that can ultimately lead to improving race relations.” You could make a book like this the focus of a discussion group that meets regularly. Participants could do the work in private and meet weekly or biweekly to discuss the journey.

You could also curate and catalog a list of free articles and texts, videos, and podcast episodes from an anti-racism Google doc or website and use those resources as the basis for discussion.

diversity, equity and inclusion education

Discussion guides

People may not know where to start in their discussions about your (or their) organization’s processes, policies, practices, and traditions. Develop discussion guides that volunteer leaders, chapter leaders, or member companies can use to get tough conversations started.

BoardSource provided examples of guiding questions:

•    What are the “monuments” that have been “erected and honored” historically in your organization? Are they standing in your way? What are the practices, policies, procedures, values, and cultural norms that have been “immovable,” that have been in place for too long—or perhaps never should have existed at all?

•    Are there issues that your board has consciously avoided discussing, issues your board has yet to “acknowledge, understand, and reconcile?” Are they holding you (and the audience you serve) back from a better future?

•    Which issues are most relevant and important to the audience you serve? Are you willing to be persistent, resolute, and committed to advocating for them over time?

•    Will you be more intentional about bringing the voices and perspectives of communities of color into your boardroom deliberations (and/or going into the community to learn more about the priorities of the communities of color that your organization serves)?

You could also work with a DEI consultant to develop a discussion guide.

Programs for rising professionals

Students, recent graduates, and young professionals are having enough trouble right now in the pandemic economy. But minorities don’t always have the same opportunities due to a lack of the “right connections” or not being seen as a “cultural fit”—a risky hiring practice.  

These young people need the support of mentors and sponsors. They need career resources and education so they know how to network, find good jobs, and master the hiring process.

Like their white counterparts, young Blacks and other minorities would also benefit from adulting programs. Don’t assume the young people who want to enter your industry have these skills, many of them know they don’t and would be grateful for getting them under their belts.

We often hear talk about getting back to normal. Forget that. “Normal” meant exclusion for many people. Your association must make a sustained effort by sticking to a DEI plan with measurable targets to create the new and next normal—a more diverse, equitable and inclusive association and industry. DEI education is where you begin because when we know better, we do better.

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