Volume 80 | Issue 6
November 2012

Diversity: More To Do

Marsha Herman-Betzen

I have always considered myself of normal intelligence, highly motivated, with a staunch commitment to diversity. And yet, I feel woefully inadequate when it comes to demonstrating progress in this area.

I have served on the Department of Education’s task force on diversity education and written several articles on affirmative action. I work for an organization that lists three of its core values as unconditional human worth, caring community, and, now, diversity. The Association’s Affirmative Action Statement says ACUI will provide reasonable and fair opportunity for appointment to all positions within the organization. In addition, our Statement of Commitment to and Vision for a Multicultural Organization is dedicated to MHBengaging in systematic acts of inclusion at all levels; purposeful and authentic communication across cultural lines; constant reexamination of structures, programs, and services for inclusiveness; and removal of all barriers that prevent members from pursuing their affiliation in a manner consistent with their own experiences. Among ACUI’s 11 core competencies is Intercultural Proficiency, the ability to successfully communicate, understand, and interact among persons with differing assumptions that exist because of ethnic and cultural orientations. We even have three communities of practice bringing together gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members; multi-ethnic professionals and allies; and women.

And bringing this all together, we have emphasized diversity in ACUI’s 2011-2015 Strategic Plan, aspiring to be recognized by our members as a multicultural organization, that is “genuinely committed to a diverse representation of its membership; is sensitive to maintaining an open, supportive, and responsive environment; is working toward and purposefully including elements of diverse cultures in its ongoing operations; and ... is authentic in its responses to issues confronting it.”

Yet despite all this, I regularly hear that our staff and leadership lack racial minority representation and that union and activities professionals are not especially skilled in Intercultural Proficiency. So how do we reverse these trends?

ACUI has the framework through our governing documents and through ideals that celebrate diverse individuals. What we need now is to figure out how to recruit volunteers who match the demographic we serve. What we need now is to find out how the Central Office goes beyond the community they resemble to attract a more diverse workforce. What we need now is to identify the next steps for this Association to reach its ideal future where the diversity of our people is one of our paramount strengths and where diversity of thought is the way we approach tasks, solve problems, make decisions, and recognize opportunities.

We are so close, and we are not alone. In August 2011, even U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order directing federal agencies to develop strategic plans to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.

In July, the ACUI Board of Trustees issued a similar directive for volunteer component groups to identify ways they could support the Association’s diversity and inclusion efforts (see p. 54). Many of these efforts parallel Berry’s pillars. Additionally, I am working on a new set of recruitment and retention practices for the hiring of Central Office staff that will reflect diversity as a vital driver of our success. The Volunteer Development Team is having similar discussions about our volunteer workforce. And you can help, too. Attempts at program teams and task forces focusing on diversity have lacked champions and momentum in recent years, so we are interested in offering opportunities for volunteers to engage in ad hoc capacities on initiatives about which they are passionate.

Everyone in the organization must make a personal leadership commitment through the development of behaviors and actions that consciously support diversity and inclusion. Only through this joint focus can we become a multicultural organization, not because it is the right thing to do, but because it makes us the best we can be.