“The first step is admitting you have a problem,” so goes the old Alcoholics Anonymous adage. In diversity and inclusion work, it’s important to not only acknowledge this truth internally, but publicly as well.
Disproportionality in hiring practices, promotional opportunities, services delivered – all of these imbalances are obvious to those getting the short end of the stick. People of color and other historically marginalized populations have gotten short shrift for all of U.S. history and easily recognize it – and the truth of it happening is rarely talked about or acknowledged by those in the majority population, those in charge at most organizations.
Google just turned that on its ear and was then quickly followed by Yahoo just last week. Google publicly released their admittedly dismal diversity and inclusion metrics because they acknowledged that in order to fix a problem, the problem must first be measured. Google is the first tech company to publicly acknowledge its poor record of recruiting, hiring and developing women and people of color with 70 percent of its workforce being male and 61 percent white. Their transparency on this means that their books are open and the public is free to scrutinize – this holds them to a strong measure of accountability. A secondary roll-down effect is that now all of Silicon Valley is challenged to follow suit and many do not even collect the data systematically.
Public transparency in diversity and inclusion work is key to making genuine, measured change. In a white paper by the Global Diversity and Inclusion Foundation, A Look at Transparency in Sharing Diversity and Inclusion Practices, they assert a number of key areas to consider when considering how to be transparent about diversity and inclusion efforts:
- General philosophy on diversity and inclusion
- High level overview or listing of programs
- Detailed information about workforce inclusion programs
- Detailed information about supplier diversity programs
- Detained information on efforts in diverse communities
- Information on awards won
- Demographic information on workforce composition
- Demographic information on board members
- Sponsorships or partnerships with diverse organizations
At Affirmations, a nonprofit human service agency serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities of Southeast Michigan, our transparency efforts started at the beginning of the initiative and included providing information publicly on all of these areas, except supplier diversity programs which did not apply. Our transparency efforts began when the Multicultural Advisory Committee was formed and when community members were invited to be a part of the effort. Further, it contained a number of on-going transparency steps throughout the process, including some of the following:
- Public Launch. At the outset, it was important not to mince words on why the committee was being formed. Affirmations simply stated, “the Multicultural Advisory Committee at Affirmations was established to address historic racial divisions within the organization and establish best practices for diversity and inclusion.
- Regular Progress Reports. Once formed, the Multicultural Advisory Committee wrote quarterly press releases which were published in Michigan’s LGBT community newspaper, Between The Lines, featuring accomplishments, setbacks and providing information about who was serving on the committee. Regular progress reports were also provided internally at staff and board meetings.
- Ongoing Community Input. One year after the launch of the initiative, the MAC invited all community leaders to a meal and public forum where members of the MAC presented on progress to date, plans for next steps and invited public commentary on the process. The public commentary yielded important results, including suggestions related to the city environment in which Affirmations existed:
- Do local businesses welcome and support patrons of color or do they drive them away?
- Does the local police harass and racially profile people of color?
- Consider hosting a town hall meeting with the city to address these concerns as they may be reasons why people of color are less likely to come to Affirmations for services.
- Publicly Released Final Report. In October of 2012, the Multicultural Advisory Committee publicly released the final report – providing printed copies to the community, making electronic versions of it available via the internet and inviting the public to a presentation of the final recommendations.
Remember that transparency does not end with a report or recommendations. Diversity and inclusion work is an ongoing process, not one with a final end point. Continuing to report out publicly on progress toward meeting goals is crucial to showing continued commitment and dedication to building a truly diverse and inclusive organization.
Update: Microsoft releases its diversity stats. Biz Women Journal, Jan. 4, 2015.
———————————————————————This is one post in a multi-part story documenting one historically white organization’s journey toward becoming racially inclusive. The series seeks to document the challenges and successes faced along the way in an effort to provide a learning tool for other nonprofit organizations who wish to do the same. For a complete copy of Affirmations’ “Blueprint for Change” visit www.GoAffirmations.org and click on About Us. Kathleen LaTosch is a consultant specializing in diversity and inclusion planning for nonprofit organizations. She worked at Affirmations, Michigan’s largest LGBT organization, from 2002-2011 and served as Chief Administrative Officer from 2007-2011. While there, she was responsible for facilitating a broad-based racial diversity and inclusion initiative. For more information about Kathleen’s work and availability, email her at klatosch at gmail.com