Racial inequities aren’t a crack in the system – the systems are working as designed

gearsAmerica’s systems, from education to class, and everything in between, are working as they were designed. Deep inequities were present at our country’s founding and have been a through line until today. And therefore, discriminatory beliefs and practices have been built into our systems – those formed by the government and by our institutions. In other to ensure greater equity, nonprofits should explore how racism has been built into systems.

The construction of race is a backbone to our systems

Racism, a system of advantage based on race, is an integral part of how many of our nation’s other systems, such as our criminal justice system, were crafted. This is why race as Americans understand the concept today was formed. As the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) explains, prior to American colonization, “race” was used rarely and generally meant to group people by kinship, rather than shared physical characteristics. However, racial categories as we know them today became more commonplace as the “categorization of people became a justification for European colonization and subsequent enslavement of people from Africa.” 

European colonization and the founding of America depended on this construction of race, thereby ensuring that race was interwoven into our nation’s policies and practices. Understanding that race has been and still is the central way that we divide, and therefore understand, our nation helps us see that it has necessarily been built into the core of our institutions. 

Inequitable outcomes are a product of intentional design 

The racial disparities we see today are expected outcomes based on intentional design. Let us take a brief look at the housing system in particular, which is often said to be broken, to understand how this system perpetuates itself.

In response to the Great Depression, the New Deal included housing programs – programs which intentionally shut out Black Americans. On top of this, the newly established Federal Housing Administration refused to insurance mortgages in and near Black neighborhoods, a process called redlining. Over the past century, mortgage insurers have not always explicitly stated that race is a reason for denying coverage, instead color coding these neighborhoods as “risky.” But the racism was overt in the Federal Housing Administration’s manual, which stated that “incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities.” Today, credit scores are used as a form of redlining, disproportionally impacting Black and Latinx households. Home ownership is one of the most secure ways for families to accrue wealth. As a result of redlining policies, White households have a median wealth that is ten times that of Black households and eight times that of Latinx households. 

Nonprofits must examine the systems they are built on and uphold 

With this knowledge, nonprofits should examine how inequities show up within their organizations, how they affect their stakeholders and community, and explore how DEI initiatives can address them. Learn how to take your first steps here.
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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—such as 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.

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 sheera@ywboston.org.

8 ways to start confronting anti-fat bias at your nonprofit

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Source: UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health

Often considered a delicate and sensitive subject, it may feel uncomfortable or even rude to talk about anti-fat attitudes at your nonprofit. However, studies increasingly show that people in larger bodies are treated differently and paid less than their straight sized counterparts. Fat individuals face hurdles as small as not having accessible clothing options and as large as facing medical bias that can have disastrous consequences.

The primary tool used to measure fatness and uphold thin Whiteness as the standard body is still widely used today: the Body Mass Index (BMI). It’s been increasingly scrutinized as an inadequate measure of a person’s health for decades in parts of the medical community. The BMI emerged out of racist pseudoscience in the 19th century and now disproportionately punishes and harms women, people of color, and especially women of color today.

A 2011 study found that for each one unit increase in BMI women made 1.83% less, which could lead to thousands of dollars in lost wages over a lifetime. 42% of fat individuals report facing some kind of discrimination as a result of their size, and the larger a person is, the more discrimination they report facing. In our workplaces and our world, anti-fat attitudes have clear and direct consequences on the lives of fat people. This discrimination is intersectional, compounded by sexist, racist, and classist attitudes and behaviors.

If we do not discuss anti-fat attitudes as part of diversity, equity, and inclusion work, the problem will only persist and harm those already most marginalized in our workplaces, especially women of color. In order for everyone to thrive we must entertain the uncomfortable.

A good first step is to educate yourself and your employees on how you view people in larger bodies. Beyond that we must consider how our workplaces feel to those in larger bodies.


The following list is a starting point to have larger conversations about anti-fat bias in our nonprofits and society.

  • Consider taking the weight IAT test to see what your implicit bias is towards fat individuals. 

  • Ensure that your office is accessible for people at all sizes by providing comfortably sized furniture, and devoid of architecture that may be hostile towards people of larger body sizes. 

  • During staff outings pick activities that wouldn’t exclude someone based on their weight. 

  • Examine your workplace policies around hiring and promotion to ensure that people of all sizes are treated equitably.

  • Include weight-based discrimination and bullying in guides about inappropriate workplace behavior. 

  • Eliminate weight-based workplace “wellness programs” that are not shown to be effective at achieving positive health outcomes and may actively harm fat employees.

  • Use more positive images of larger people in your communications. The UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health has a Media Gallery. 

Anti-fat bias is a pervasive force within our world and requires a dynamic response to confront our own individual biases and dismantle systemic barriers faced by those in larger bodies.  

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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—such as 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.

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 sheera@ywboston.org.

4 recommendations to strengthen your nonprofit’s evaluation of DEI efforts in 2022

Screen Shot 2022-01-10 at 8.54.06 AM-minAs we enter a new year, many nonprofits find themselves evaluating the past year’s challenges and successes to determine how they can have greater impact and fulfill their organization’s mission. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits continue to seek ways to improve upon their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices to ensure more equitable outcomes for their employees, constituents, and communities. Here are some things to consider as you evaluate your DEI efforts in 2022.

Reflect on how your nonprofit evaluates DEI

Many nonprofits are measuring diversity by looking at who is in the room, in the organization, and in different roles. But has your nonprofit started measuring equity and inclusion? When we expand our view beyond who is in the room or the role, we can look at other experiences, attitudes, processes, and systems. So, take the time to consider what data may be missing or excluded, and what the key drivers are behind what you have been collecting.

Gather feedback to determine whether your nonprofit has collected data inclusively

No matter what questions you ask, or how you ask them, we want to emphasize that central to your success will be getting all voices to the table – both in hearing from all voices and in considering what questions matter most to even ask in the first place. It’s important to recognize whose thoughts, ideas, and experiences may be ignored during the evaluation process. As you build or rebuild your evaluation strategy, take time to speak with staff across your organization about what matters to them and how to make the evaluation process inclusive.

Determine what your nonprofit needs in order to improve

Before you can put your plan in place, brainstorm what your organization will need, such as money, time, or staff, to have more equitable evaluation practices. How can you overcome any barriers to these resources, both in the short term and the long term? Evaluation is a key way to get from where we are to where we want to be. Going through the process of assessing and investing in your evaluation practices is a form of assessing and investing your diversity, equity, and inclusion practices as a whole.

Set your plan in place

Once you’ve reflected and gathered your resources, you can determine what your data collection and reporting will look like. Instead of just asking “how do we measure DEI” also or instead ask “what drives change?” and “how do we know that it has changed?” Ultimately, compiling data is not an end to itself. Instead, these reframed questions help you see DEI as a continually evolving process through which your nonprofit can learn its own unique solutions in driving racial and gender equity and inclusion.

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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—such as 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.

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 sheera@ywboston.org.

3 ways to engage your board of directors in DEI work

image1-minBoard of directors are crucial in a nonprofit’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. As articulated by BoardSource, due to the responsibilities of their position they “[serve] as a reflection of an organization’s values and beliefs about who should be empowered and entrusted with its most important decisions… [and] play a critical role in helping organizations understand the context in which they work and how best to prioritize resources and strategies based on that reality.” 

InclusionBoston provides long-term partnerships to nonprofits, including board of directors, and assists in the creation of a tailored plan to help implement DEI-based practices and policies. We recently talked to Kathleen Von Euw and Evan Hines, who work at YW Boston as InclusionBoston Managers, about how board of directors can engage in DEI work to make their organization a more inclusive space.


1. Make diversity a priority within your board 

A nonprofit’s attempts at DEI efforts mean nothing if the members of the board itself are not representative of the diversity of stakeholders and communities they intend to serve. YW Boston references a tool called the Organizational DEI Journey. A well-meaning nonprofit and board of directors may make official statements on diversity but still have a lot more internal work to do when it comes to the actual diversity of their board. This would put them in the “Symbolic Change” category of the Organizational DEI Journey, several steps away from being “Fully Inclusive.”  

2. Take time to understand diversity, equity, and inclusion 

Kathleen explains that it is necessary for an organization to develop a DEI understanding: “[The] board is sort of pulling the levers of approval for resources, time, [and] the setting of priorities,” which is why the understanding of DEI work is important. She further explains that if an organization is making an effort to prioritize DEI work but the board isn’t consistent in this reflection it could have a negative effect on the organization. Without the board of directors having gone through necessary DEI work and reflection, the staff is going to potentially get pushback as they try to implement DEI initiatives.  

3. Board of directors and nonprofits should hold themselves and each other accountable with DEI efforts

Engaging in DEI work across the culture of a nonprofit shouldn’t just stem from one place. Board of directors, leadership team members, and staff all have to holistically work together to move the organization to the Fully Inclusive stage of their Organizational DEI journey.  

This collaborative work can be difficult. Both Evan and Kathleen acknowledged that there are power dynamics between a board of directors and the leaders and staff within an organization. While this can be challenging, regularly checking in about your organization’s DEI efforts will help you stay on track. As Robin Stacia wrote in Bloomerang, “Through prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion your board and nonprofit are committing to transformational work that will benefit your organization and community.” 

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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.

 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 sheera@ywboston.org.

Holding difficult conversations about racism will help us grow as nonprofit leaders

MNN_OurSharedSector_Nov2021Beth Chandler, YW Boston President & CEO, was recently joined by Patricia J. Williams, a University Professor of Law and Philosophy, and Director of Law, Technology and Ethics at Northeastern University for a conversation on Critical Race Theory (CRT). As a CRT scholar, Professor Williams has published widely in the areas of race, gender, and law.

The conversation’s aim was to help provide a better understanding of CRT and the role it can play in furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, which is critical to all institutions including nonprofit organizations. Here are some important takeaways from this conversation.

What is (and isn’t) Critical Race Theory?

Critical Race Theory emerged out of critical legal studies in the 1970s and 1980s that assert that race plays a part in our society’s systems, such as our legal system and our education system. Recently many Americans have fought against CRT for fear it is being taught to their children and integrated into DEI programs, though it’s taught almost exclusively in graduate-level courses.

As Professor Williams noted, “What [people] are fighting against is not [CRT], but integration.” They are fighting against their own discomfort, and the possibility that their children will “become upset about precisely the difficult dialogues that I think we must have.” In doing so, they have weakened institutions’ diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Learn more about CRT in our previous blog.

We need to frame racism as a systemic issue to create space for understanding and action.

Professor Williams explains, “As adults, we are in a society that has a punitive history. We need to be able to confront this history without the framing as individual faults. Framing [these prejudices] as structural is essential.”

CRT helps us understand racism as a systemic part of our institutions, which individuals take part in knowingly or unknowingly. Recognizing this fact will help us root out the racism in our institutions, with the goal of creating more equitable spaces and outcomes.

Building the trust to hold difficult conversations will help us grow.

Beth acknowledged that though challenging, “We need to prepare ourselves to hold difficult conversations, especially with those we seek to make change with, such as our colleagues.”

Professor Williams explained that not providing the space or ability for young people to have these conversations engrains in them the belief that talking about racism is taboo. This leaves a community unable to take appropriate measures to address the harm from racial incidents and prevent them in the future.

Professor Williams spoke about the importance of trust in holding authentic conversations. Truly listening to one another can result in participants gaining empathy and potentially changing their mind.

Her point is analogous to YW Boston’s DEI philosophy. As Beth shared, “Here at YW Boston we recognize that active listening and relationship building are crucial components within organizations seeking to make positive change together.”

For more information on Critical Race Theory, check out the full conversation featuring Beth Chandler and Professor Williams through the link here.

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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—such as 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.

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 sheera@ywboston.org.

How nonprofits can prioritize disability equity during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond 

MNNOctober2021DisabilityEquity (1)-minBy YW Boston

Whether we show up to work in-person or virtually, nonprofit staff do not just bring their professional identities to work, but so much more.  At YW Boston, we consider the “Big 8” social identities: various aspects of ourselves that affect “how people and systems treat us and the opportunities that are available to us.” One of these social identities is ability. 

Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, disability advocates have noted that many organizations adopted workplace accessibility policies and practices that the community has been proposing for years. It’s essential we understand disability equity and its importance to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.

An introduction to disability equity

YW Boston recently completed a series of workshops with Partners for Youth with Disabilities, an organization that was integral in informing our understanding of disability. 

First off, we encourage all to get comfortable with the word disability. Many people with disabilities identify as disabled and are proud to be a part of the disability community. As a good rule of thumb, notice how people self-identify and follow their lead.

A key framework for understanding disability equity is the Social Model of Disability. With the Social Model of Disability, disability is not a diagnosis, but a product of one’s social and physical environment.

The Social Model of Disability holds accountable those in charge of our physical and social environments to make necessary, accessible changes. This model is important when thinking about disability equity, which helps proactively accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.

Intersectionality is key

When thinking about disability equity it’s also important to think about how the social identity of disability can intersect with other forms of identity, such as race and gender. 

Not only may a person experience discrimination for their race, their gender, and their disability, but those experiences are interwoven. Assumptions made about one of their identities will also impact how they are treated regarding their other identities. 

Use the Pandemic to Better Understand Disability Accessibility

Here at YW Boston, we have become increasingly aware throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that we have work to do around accessibility. Some of our strategies to increase accessibility include utilizing online transcriptions, accommodating different learning styles during our programs, and expanding remote participation options. We also now utilize adaptable furniture and have designated quiet areas in our office.

Taking the time to think through disability inclusion in the office is an important part of DEI work and something that should be revisited frequently to be sustained.

How do you begin to implement disability inclusion in your workplace? 

One way to start implementing disability inclusion in your workspace is through required disability awareness training for all employees, including those with disabilities and those without. This keeps everyone on the same page as far as disability language and resources. 

Another way to start implementing disability inclusion is by providing accommodations for your employees with disabilities. As shown by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), accommodations help employees feel more secure in their individual roles and in working with their teammates.

If your organization needs additional support, reach out to those who offer organizational assessments, DEI services, and who specialize in disability equity.

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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—such as 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.

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 sheera@ywboston.org.

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.