Perspective: What is Diversity without Equity & Inclusion?

Empowering Others in our Personal and Professional Interactions

March 15, 2021 – Life moves fast, and that hasn’t changed as we approach a year of life being interrupted by the pandemic. I’ve spent the last two months reflecting, particularly around Black History Month — and now Women’s History Month — as they relate to NAUDL’s mission, how we enact it, and the students we serve.

These, and other, dedicated months of acknowledgment and commemoration offer an opportunity to recognize key contributions to our society and culture; however, they also serve as a reminder of the responsibility we all have to actively work towards diversity, equity and inclusion.  In many ways, we have gotten much better at recognizing the need for diversity in all its forms.  Equity and inclusion, though, are trickier subjects — and real change requires all three to be present together.

Unfortunately, we do not have to dig very deep to discover the problematic effects of diversity without equity and inclusion. Last week’s news cycle started with an exclusive look inside the royal family, providing an illustration of increased diversity without commensurate efforts around equity and inclusion. Meghan Markle shared her experiences as an accomplished woman of color fighting to be heard in an established institution. She shared with all of us the hardship that came from calling attention to an issue, only to be shut down, or worse, vilified. I wish I could say that I cannot relate, but I can.  Totally.  And I know scores of women who can relate, too.

As I was still processing the story about the royal family, I read a story in the Washington Post about an alarming “hot mic” situation and a Georgetown Law professor who was recorded making “reprehensible” comments about Black students.  The university has since launched an investigation (that will also include reviewing the professor’s grading practices), but it was impossible for me to read this story and not reflect on the need for more change. While it is true that more women and minorities are in boardrooms and classrooms than in the past, the marginalization is still very real.

When thinking about the powerful young voices NAUDL supports, I encourage leaders to consider big and small ways you will drive these necessary changes.  Sure, change takes time,  but we can all model inclusive behavior while we take on tougher diversity, inclusion, equity and representation subjects.

Mentorship and camaraderie to those who are not being heard is part of my personal ethos.  Even if it’s not happening to me, I can still redirect the conversation to the person who is being talked over.  We can all do that.  It is an almost instant way to make a difference in the discussion — and to the person who’s trying so hard to be a part of it.  In addition to being at the table, everyone deserves to be heard, valued and respected for the gifts that they bring.

At NAUDL, we seek to empower the individual in ways that matter. However, I am more proud that debate goes beyond one’s own voice: it is respecting, listening and honoring the voice and perspective of others.

Sincerely,

Rhonda Haynes
Executive Director

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