How Nonprofits Can Address Stress and Trauma in the Workplace

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The average full-time employee in the United States works 47 hours per week according to a 2014 Gallup poll. What’s more, technology has increasingly blurred the lines between our work and personal life, especially as more workplaces implement remote work in response to COVID-19. Yet in many workplaces, leaving your personal life behind remains a core expectation of professionalism. In a recent webinar, YW Boston explored how unreasonable this expectation is given that stress and trauma experienced by employees are part of their life and consequently can impact them at work.

More than ever, nonprofits are considering office-wide discussions to acknowledge and support staff as they process emotions. With these conversations, there’s always the possibility of conflict or discomfort, yet it is an even bigger risk to go about businesses as usual and pretend that your employees and constituents are unaffected.

If your nonprofit is planning a company-wide conversation, here are some things to consider:

Examine the intentions behind having this conversation

First, spend some time thinking about the intentions behind your desire to hold this conversation. Why does your organization want to hold this conversation? Are you reacting to an incident within the organization? Are you responding to requests for dialogue by staff? Is this part of your existing DE&Istrategy? 

Be explicit about your purpose

Ensure, as a convener, that everyone knows the purpose of the conversation. It’s important to connect this conversation directly to your organizational values and/or DE&I strategy.

Develop a format appropriate for the size, structure, and culture of your nonprofit

While open forums sound simple, larger nonprofits will likely find them hard to implement and employees who do not get an opportunity to speak may leave feeling frustrated. Typically, more structure, rather than less, is going to lead to better results, especially if your organization does not have a shared foundation for challenging conversations. Consider this:

  • If the goal is to give staff a place to express feelings, this cannot happen effectively for a staff of 40 during a one-hour meeting. In fact, it may do more harm than good to staff most impacted by the subject matter.
  • Encourage staff not to schedule work meetings directly following this conversation to allow time for staff to process and gather themselves.
  • Consider working with your meeting group to set community agreements at the beginning of the discussion. Think of these agreements as guidelines for “how we would like to be together.”

Develop a format and agenda that aligns with your organizational culture

If staff are used to speaking informally and across levels, structure this conversation similarly. If you have a top/down culture, leadership should initiate and/or lead the conversation. Senior leaders can be powerful models by being authentic and, where appropriate, vulnerable. If staff are invited to “ask anything,” be prepared to answer honestly, including when an answer isn’t readily available.

Be mindful of who you ask to organize and facilitate

Consider your organizational assets. Is there staff with facilitation experience? Can you engage your DE&I leaders? That said, be considerate and intentional with your requests. Too often, staff most impacted by an event are the ones asked to initiate discussions and educate their colleagues.

Consider setting some context and shared understanding

We all perceive the world through the lens of our identities and lived experiences. It can be helpful to provide participants pre-reading or shared glossary. Such context will also support organizations in identifying systemic changes they can make.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBostonand LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at sbornstein@ywboston.org.

Our Shared Sector: 7 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Make Virtual Meetings More Inclusive

By YW Boston

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In the midst of a crisis, continuing to foster an inclusive workplace is as important as ever. Nonprofits know that COVID-19 is impacting communities in different ways. As some organizations continue to work remotely, leaders and managers must ensure that they support staff of all identities. Here are some best practices for supporting staff and practicing inclusivity in a virtual landscape.

  1. Acknowledge and address the diverse challenges of working remotely and during a crisis.

Let people know you are aware that individuals’ experiences vary during this time. The ability to work remotely in a comfortable space is a privilege not everyone has. People may not have the technology for regular video conferencing. Living situations also vary by individual: many people live with roommates or are balancing work with caring for others. Give people advance notice if there is an expectation for them to participate via video, and send a follow-up email with action items.

  1. Explicitly incorporate an inclusion lens and remain mindful of bias.

Begin meetings with a focused statement that centers DE&I and your organization’s mission. Recognize that microaggressions can still occur virtually, and encourage people to reach out to you or to colleagues for support if they run into barriers to full participation. Setting a precedent of open communication around decision-making can also go a long way in empowering employees. Before announcing a policy change, emphasize that your organization is seeking solutions that do not cause disparate impact and that team members should weigh in with their feedback. Provide private ways for employees to submit feedback, in order to mitigate the risk of making anyone feel like their needs and concerns are being exposed.

  1. Offer micro-affirmations.

Managers can help counteract feelings of isolation among those they manage, especially employees who hold marginalized identities. Micro-affirmations include recognizing the achievements of others, taking a professional interest in staff, and asking for others’ opinions. These small gestures can often be overlooked during times of crisis.

  1. Leverage technology + structured participation to capture diverse viewpoints.

Without the ability to see body language, people with marginalized identities may find it even harder to jump into a discussion. Incorporate different participation strategies, such as a round-robin, that give everyone the opportunity to speak. Emphasize that you want to hear input from everyone. Use technology tools—such as chat rooms, polling, and other in-app nonverbal feedback functions—to get input on ideas.

  1. Delegate responsibilities.

Prioritizing inclusion can be more challenging when simultaneously managing technology. Consider holding meetings with a co-host. By sharing the work, you can focus on facilitating and noticing which individuals the team has not heard from.

  1. Take advantage of supervisory meetings.

Managers have opportunities to build their inclusive practices during 1-on-1 meetings. Ask open-ended questions to learn about specific concerns and listen for challenges related to employees’ physical workspace, feelings of isolation, or changes in mood and appearance. Work with each employee to ensure they have what they need to feel good about their work. As a manager, you can use these learnings to advocate for all staff members to ensure everyone receives necessary support. Your organization’s leadership should observe common themes in order to implement new policies and practices.

About YW Boston 

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed. 

Our Shared Sector: Why Nonprofits Should Center Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By YW Boston

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Physical distancing policies established to help flatten the COVID-19 curve have unearthed the disparate impact that this pandemic has on employees within the same organization. Some staff cannot work from home. Others, whose primary responsibilities relate to direct service, face increased safety risks. Many parents, especially women and women of color, are juggling childcare and eldercare responsibilities while still putting in a full day’s work.

As soon as Americans became worried about COVID-19, we saw an increase in physical and verbal assaults against Asians and Asian Americans. Studies show that ecological threats exacerbate people’s prejudice against perceived outsiders and economic downturns increase prejudice against people of color. When a majority of our population gives into this “scarcity Mindset”, those with fewer resources are hit the hardest. Nonprofit organizations must stay vigilant to ensure equitable outcomes. We are already seeing how this pandemic disproportionately affects low-resource and at-risk families. For instance, many part-time and hourly-wage workers’ hours are being cut dramatically, while others are being laid off. As we see this pandemic cause a widespread economic downturn, we need to recognize how structural racism causes more severe consequences for people of color. Inequality persists during recessions, including the fact that as unemployment rose in the last recession, the severity of workplace discrimination did, too. Times of global uncertainty and fear can trigger automatic responses such as implicit bias.

Nonprofits may be facing additional hardships due to interruptions to programming and fundraising. Yet it is as important as ever for nonprofits to maintain their people-centered approach. We must prioritize ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our own employees and constituents. Leaders should avoid making assumptions and provide appropriate support to employees. Although we are going through a shared experience as a nation and as organizations, not everyone shares the same access to resources and safety nets. Being an inclusive leader during times of uncertainty requires flexibility, transparency, and proactive communication.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. As part of that work, we are helping organizations become socially connected while physically distant.

Our Shared Sector: Three Ways to Prepare for Successful Inclusion Strategies

By YW Boston

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YW Boston has been working to advance racial and gender equity and build more inclusive environments for over 150 years. Today, YW Boston’s InclusionBoston program has partnered with over 100 organizations to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion and create lasting cultural change. As part of this work, YW Boston partners with industry leaders to share insights and discuss successful strategies. We sat down with the Executive Director of The Urban Labs and EVP Chief Experience and Culture Officer at Berkshire Bank Malia Lazu to learn about her insights into how organizations can prepare for and successfully implement diversity and inclusion strategies.

Here are three implementation strategies for nonprofits from our conversation with Malia Lazu:

Don’t rush into action

Nonprofits are looking for lasting change, so they are eager to see results. It is important to remember that inclusive spaces are not built overnight. As Malia Lazu explained, “First you have to focus on building the relationships you need to get where you want to go. We need to build different kinds of relationships and that takes time.”

Hiring diverse candidates should not be the first step

First, focus on figuring out why you have not been able to attract and retain a diverse team. Malia highlights the importance of this prep work, “You want to do that internally. You don’t want to have folks telling on you on Twitter or Glassdoor.” This likely includes ensuring that you have equitable policies and have put effort into making sure all employees feel included. Learn more about the difference between diversity, equity, and inclusion in our previous article and how to work toward each here.

Encourage leaders and team members to work towards being better allies privately

When we talk about systemic change, we often forget that people make up systems. We are the product of systems and we all have work to do when it comes to deconstructing our personal biases and presumptions. Ally-ship is critical to the success of diversity and inclusion efforts. As Malia offered, “A good ally should read and educate themselves on as many diverse experiences as possible. Allow vulnerability and be open to it.” As the saying goes, ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and we should not expect others to do the work for us.

About YW Boston 

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Why Inclusive Nonprofits Should Consider a “Culture Add” Over a “Culture Fit”

By YW Boston

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When nonprofits interview a potential employee, they are not just looking at their skills and past experiences. Often, teams look for a sense of how an interviewee would work with existing staff and whether they hold the values of the organization. This evaluation is often branded as a search for a “culture fit” – as in, “Does this person fit into the existing culture of our organization?”

Forbes recommends looking for “culture fit” candidates because, as they explain, “we can always provide the resources and tools to help employees get better at their jobs, but we can’t teach someone to align with our cultural values.” Each organization has their own language, processes, and customs. Many people believe that a new employee who is a “fit” will be easily onboarded into this culture, leading to increased employee satisfaction and reduced employee turnover.

“Culture Fit” is flawed

A number of sources that speak of “culture fit,” such as Forbes and Business News Daily, recognize that the concept can be harmful if employed incorrectly. As Forbes explains, “What it doesn’t mean is overlooking different cultures and lifestyles, or dismissing personal values you don’t agree with.” However, when a hiring team becomes very focused on cultural fit, they will be more likely to hire those who are familiar to them. Even if unconsciously, hiring teams make judgements based on who they believe would be the easiest to train or get to know, often choosing those similar to them.

“Culture Fit” may be hurting your organization

With each individual hire, these trends may not be obvious, but they build over time. This leads to a lack of diversity within an organization, which can stifle its success. As McKinsey & Company reported in Diversity Matters, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform those in the bottom quartile. Those in the top quartile for racial diversity are 33% more likely to outperform. Their research demonstrates that hiring bias’s effect on office diversity has large ramifications. A homogenous workplace culture (whether it be homogenous on racial, gender, or experience) can lead to groupthink and the team may have a more difficult time finding solutions.

Instead, focus on “Culture Add”

All of this is not to say that hiring committees should get rid of any attempts to examine how a candidate may work with the organization’s culture. Rather than “culture fit,” consider seeking someone who would be a “culture add” to the workplace. As Beamery explains it, “culture add” requires asking: “What can a candidate bring to the table that will add to your culture and help move it in the right direction?” Focusing on hiring a “culture add” reorients the task by asking your hiring team to perform pre-work that will set you up for success. Before hiring a new candidate, the team should examine: What perspectives are we missing from our work? Where are we looking to grow as an organization? Then, after accepting that employees can and should help your nonprofit’s culture evolve, there must be processes in place to allow this to happen. This means fostering an inclusive workplace where employees are recognized for the unique perspectives and skills they bring to the work.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Our Shared Sector: Your Evaluations May Be Biased. Here’s What You Can Do About It.

by YW Boston

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Nonprofits are increasingly interested in measuring their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to determine whether these are actually effecting change. Whether you are evaluating efforts within your office or your community, evaluations are important tools for measuring progress. They are a valuable tool that will inform any adjustments, should you need to course correct. Yet bias often shows up in evaluations, just like it can show up elsewhere. This unaddressed bias can jeopardize the success of your DE&I efforts.

YW Boston has focused on developing evaluation tools that allow us to effectively measure individual and organizational readiness for D&I work, as well as tracking progress and areas of improvement. Here are some tips to help you identify and disrupt bias in your DE&I evaluations.

  1. Acknowledge that bias is always present and address it accordingly

The first steps towards addressing any challenge involves acknowledging the problem at hand and exploring possible root causes. People are biased, and as biased individuals, we can reproduce our biases in everything from self-assessment and decision making, to the tools and technology that we use. Prejudice and racism are institutionalized, so it is important to recognize that bias will be present within data—such as demographic data—and processes, regardless of where and how data was collected. Try pushing beyond quantitative data as it does not always tell the full story. Your quantitative and qualitative data may be communicating differently, so it’s important to gather more perspectives in order to gain deeper meaning. One common hurdle in evaluations is the inability to disaggregate. Disaggregation is critical to identifying singular data on specific identities such as race, gender identity, class, abilities, as well as intersections of identities.

  1. Examine what is being measured

In the words of Marc Miringoff, “we measure what we value.” Our environments, experiences, and institutions will impact our ideas about what is important and what should be measured. Therefore, institutionalized bias, prejudice, and racism will impact choices about the data we gather, the findings we prioritize and the meaning we ascribe to them. One way to mitigate racism within evaluations is to examine who is performing them. Evaluators have a lot of power, so ask: Are your evaluators diverse? Do they have an understanding of power and privilege? What data collection methods are being prioritized? Is your default indicator a white male?

  1. Consider who determines outcomes

It’s equally important to consider who’s involved in the post-evaluation process. After assessments are complete, someone will interpret the data and decide how to move forward. Consider shifting power dynamics from institutions and “experts” to communities and individuals most affected by the research. Evaluators can ask themselves, “Who is not included?” Define your theory of change and what it would take to achieve your outcomes. Identify your timetables and gather input from those who will be involved in making them happen. Think about what a negative or positive outcome might mean and who will frame those results.

Nonprofits should prioritize an equity lens throughout the process, even after evaluations have concluded. Be intentional about how your share data and make sure participants know what is being measured and why.

About YW Boston 

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed. 

Our Shared Sector: 3 Key Diversity and Inclusion Strategies for Nonprofits

By YW Boston

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The previous two editions of Our Shared Sector described the differences between each part of the “DE&I” Acronym–diversity, equity, and inclusion. The articles also covered several steps that nonprofits can take to weave these principles into their organizational cultures.

Your organization may now feel ready to embark on their diversity and inclusion journey towards a more equitable workplace. Or you may have already begun to implement changes. What happens when you stumble across roadblocks and find the need to re-assess? Here are three key strategies to address common pitfalls during your diversity and inclusion journey:

  1. The diversity within your staff may not be reflective of the diversity of your constituents.

One of the business arguments for DE&I raises a concern that understanding a breadth of markets is impossible without diversity of thought. After all, diversity boosts innovation within organizations. How then can companies measure whether they are building a representative workforce? DE&I experts suggest that leadership should compare demographic information to the makeup of employees within their organization. Reports show that although women made up 51% of the population in the United States in 2012, the number of women within executive teams only accounted for an average representation of 16%. Representation is even lower at the intersections of race and gender.

  1. A diverse pool of candidates may be hiding in plain sight.

When it comes to hiring, where can nonprofit organizations find diverse professionals that are representative of their constituents? We often hear recruiters and leadership executives justify their lack of diverse hiring by claiming they simply can’t find any diverse candidates. In some cases, going as far as claiming that diverse candidates do not exist or show interest in their industry. It’s important to remember that it’s not just about knowing where to look, but how. If you only look in those places that have already produced homogeneous candidates, you are unlikely to find much diversity. Instead, try sourcing through the networks of your diverse peers. Reach out to candidates and invite them to apply to a position within your organization. Furthermore, diversity may be hiding in plain sight, as some diverse folks may be “coding” to try and fit in.

  1. You may need to re-evaluate your metrics.

Let’s say your organization is trying to address racial or gender wage gaps. Research shows that women, particularly women of color, earn less than their male counterparts. Additionally, people of color, women, and in particular women of color are less likely to be considered for promotions or find placement in leadership positions. One way to address wage differences as early as possible is by paying close attention to how inequities manifest themselves during the hiring process. The Equal Pay Act— a law amending the Fair Labor Standards Act that was signed in 1963 and advocated by YW Boston— encourages candidates never to reveal their previous salary to future employers. This is important because candidates, particularly candidates with diverse intersecting identities, may have been underpaid at their previous position so bringing up past salaries during a negotiation or using them as a starting point may be detrimental to the candidate. After all, salary is often a better indicator of a company’s budget size, not of employee experience.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Our Shared Sector: After Understanding the “DE&I” Acronym, How Can Nonprofits Start Their DE&I Journeys?

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The last edition of Our Shared Sector described the differences between each part of the “DE&I” Acronym–diversity, equity, and inclusion–and explained how the differences between each requires distinct approaches in improving them at an organization. This edition focuses on steps that nonprofits can take to weave the principles of diversity, equity into their organizational cultures.

Diversity

Increasing diversity within an organization most often means working with the Human Resources team, and any others in charge of hiring and promotion. It may mean creating or adjusting your hiring handbook or including language in job postings that indicate that people of color, women and non-binary individuals, those with disabilities, etc. are encouraged to apply.

Equity

By focusing on equity, an organization addresses all aspects of their work with an understanding that not all employees or potential employees have access to the same resources. Using an equity lens means asking questions such as: “Where are you posting the job description? Is the language accessible? Are you listing skills that allow other people to apply?” For example, you may recognize that while a job description states, “Master’s degree preferred,” not all prospective employees have had access to graduate education, so it is worth evaluating comparable skills sets for the job, such as experience working in the community.

Utilizing an equity lens means realizing that people of less privileged backgrounds often do not enter an organization with the same resources as their privileged counterparts. Therefore, it is equitable to provide them with additional support, such as providing them with professional development opportunities. Additionally, an equitable lens recognizes that leadership must ensure that white people and men are contributing to inclusion and are committed to change on an institutional level.

Inclusion

Inclusion works to create a welcoming work culture–one where individuals of all identities and racial and ethnic backgrounds feel that they are being supported and able to succeed. One strategy many workplaces employ is creating an Inclusion Committee. Committees such as these work with senior leadership and provide a space for individuals to brainstorm how to better support people of color and women in all levels.

What’s the next step?

Even after understanding the differences in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, actually putting a plan in place can feel daunting.

Keep these three pieces of advice in mind during your DE&I journey:

  1. It takes time. DE&I work is an ongoing process that will require both time in employees’ work schedules and a long-term plan that the organization commits to seeing through.
  2. This is not easy work. People are not used to discussing equity in the workplace, and it is going to be hard to get everyone on board. That is why leadership buy-in is so crucial–support from the top can provide needed guidance to the entire organization.
  3. There is no “right way” to do equity work. Each organization must come up with a plan to address their particular workplace dynamics and opportunities.

Consider reaching out to experts to ensure your organization makes the space and time to create meaningful cultural change.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Our Shared Sector: What Every Nonprofit Should Know About the Acronym “DE&I”

by YW Boston

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or “DE&I” as it is commonly referred to, is a phrase that broadly outlines the efforts an organization takes to create a more welcoming environment for people of less-privileged identities. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion can include any number of interventions and can feel daunting for nonprofits as it requires time, resources, and organizational buy-in. Once a nonprofit has identified that it wants to promote more diverse, inclusive, and equitable spaces, a good starting point is gaining clarity on what diversity, equity, and inclusion is and isn’t.

But Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is referred to as “DE&I” so often that many individuals may not know what each letter refers to. One barrier nonprofits may face in getting started building a strategy is not knowing the difference between these three concepts and how to address each.

To get started, each part of the acronym is defined below.

What is diversity? What is equity? What is inclusion?

Independent Sector’s definitions of each of these terms are helpful to understanding their differences:

Diversity “includes all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another,” including identity markers such as race, ethnicity, gender, differing abilities, sexual orientation, religion, and more. It also takes intersectional diversity into account, when people’s identity is made of a number of underrepresented identities.

Equity is “the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources.”

Inclusion is “the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.” Inclusion goes beyond diversity, because once you have a diverse staff, organizations must focus on retention.

YW Boston often uses inclusion strategist Vernā Myers’ analogy: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” Diversity is often thought of as being quantifiable by measuring who is represented in an institution. Inclusion is measured through qualifiable data, looking at attitudes and people’s perceptions of how welcoming an organization.

Why can it be unhelpful to boil it all down to “DE&I” acronym?

While goal setting is an important aspect of this work, diversity, equity, and inclusion each require different methods of intervention, different resources, and different tools for measurement.

When Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are boiled down to the acronym DE&I, diversity often becomes the focus. Because racial, ethnic, and/or gender diversity can sometimes (but not always) be determined by visually scanning an organization, nonprofits may feel it is the easiest to measure and therefore tackle. Diversifying the workforce is important, but that doesn’t directly lead to those new hires feeling welcomed or supported in the organization.

To be able to move beyond diversity, YW Boston’s InclusionBoston team explains, an organization must work with “an understanding that the systems they are working in, especially when they think about institutions, are not equal and are not equitable. They need to recognize that they have to move beyond just having people in the room or at the table.” Organizations often assume that diversity equals inclusivity. While that is not necessarily the case, oftentimes if you are truly inclusive, diversity will follow along.

In addition, many people assume that DE&I work refers specifically to race and gender, but it can address any or all systemic issues of inequity. By looking deeper than the DE&I acronym, an organization can determine whether there is a particular systemic inequity it must address.

The next edition of Our Shared Sector will help nonprofits begin to address each part of the DE&I acronym within their organizations.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Our Shared Sector: Four Ways to Become a More Inclusive Nonprofit Leader

by YW Boston

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Studies have found that nonprofit organizations are suffering from racial and gender leadership gaps. Research shows that people of color have similar qualifications as white respondents and are more likely to aspire to nonprofit leadership positions, yet people of color are severely underrepresented in leadership positions within the nonprofit sector. This has left many nonprofits wondering how they can develop more inclusive leadership in order to successfully support diversity and inclusion within their organization.

We know that improving diversity and inclusion within an organization requires a team effort. DE&I experts stress the importance of organizational buy-in. Leadership, in particular, should be open to changes within the organization. Executive leadership and management can sometimes pose as gatekeepers to organizational change. Therefore, it’s essential for influential leaders to assess the inclusivity of their leadership. Inclusive leaders can become change agents and are a key element of successful diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Fostering inclusive leadership means that your organization is committed to seeking diverse viewpoints, particularly when it comes to decision making.

But what exactly is an inclusive leader? How does one become an inclusive leader and how can individuals assess their own leadership skills?

1. Value and leverage all points of view in order to make better decisions

Groupthink can stifle innovation, decision making, and hurt a company’s bottom line. A leader’s ability to leverage diverse viewpoints can become one of their most critical skills. Through improved collaboration and strategic decision making, inclusive leaders can positively impact business performance, professional development, and employee engagement within their organizations. Not only do diverse teams perform better, but there is also a penalty for less diverse companies.

2. Build the courage to challenge assumptions and practice accountability

Inclusive leaders tolerate risk and are willing to be the first to speak up in favor of changes within an organization. It takes courage to challenge the status quo and hold the organization, others, and ourselves accountable. Courageous leaders should practice self-awareness and regulation in order to lean into discomfort and address their own biases and limitations.

3. Are committed to intentionally creating more inclusive spaces

When an organization is inclusive, all members feel valued, respected, and confident in speaking up and being heard. An inclusive space makes everyone feel like they belong. Improving inclusivity requires a long-term commitment and intentional effort. This means that inclusive leaders should adapt their practices and allocate resources towards improving diversity and inclusion. By aligning DE&I efforts to personal values and business priorities, inclusive leaders can ensure lasting impact.

4. Analyze root causes before taking action

A systems approach, such as the iceberg model, can allow leaders to be more effective and inclusive problem solvers. The iceberg model looks at the various elements within a system that can influence each other. During YW Boston’s LeadBoston program, we challenge participants to critically assess challenges in order to differentiate between symptoms and root cause. This approach provides both the knowledge and the tools that allow leaders to identify attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that may be reinforcing barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

 

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Source

This article appeared originally on the YW Boston blog.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.