Study: Associations Embrace D&I, Need Better Enactment

New research shows that while association leaders recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion, many still have work to do when it comes to incorporating D&I practices throughout their organization’s work.

As the world continues to diversify, it’s important that association workplaces and memberships reflect those changing demographics. New research from Vetted Solutions and George Mason University School of Law can act as a benchmark for associations reviewing their D&I policies.

According to the “Diversity and Inclusion: Core Values Among Associations” study [PDF], while associations recognize the importance of D&I, they still need to improve the implementation and measurement of their efforts.

“There’s been a lot of talk for years … on associations becoming more inclusive. But part of that conversation has also been on where are we and how do we get from where we are to where we can and should be to model the society and the sectors that we serve,” said Vetted Solutions President Jim Zaniello, FASAE. “So that really is what drove this: to help folks understand where they are compared to other organizations, where the community is as a whole, and what some potential steps are that they can take to continue to move the conversation forward within their organizations and the industries they serve.”

Of the 227 association executives who responded, the survey found that 81 percent view D&I as part of their organization’s core values, while 84 percent said they focus on D&I because it’s “the right thing to do.” In addition, 73 percent said they have D&I policies in place—results Zaniello said reflect positively on the association community.

“As we’re seeing the country or society across the globe becoming more diverse, associations are aware that they want their talent to be as diverse as those they serve and are taking steps now to do just this,” he said.

However, the study also revealed some challenges association are facing related to their D&I efforts: 70 percent of respondents said they do not have effective ways to measure the efficacy of their D&I policies, 45 percent said they don’t have a D&I action plan, and 55 percent said they have trouble tapping into a diverse group of job candidates.

These stats have started further discussions on D&I. “We’ve consistently heard in conversations around the study that everybody would like to do more to see more [diverse candidates] and to expand their pool as they’re recruiting talent,” he said.

To accomplish this task, Zaniello recommends that associations apply D&I policies to all their activities. For example, associations should tailor job descriptions to focus on experience, as well as organizational culture, to ensure fit and a focus on diversity. During the onboarding process, new hires should be briefed on the association’s D&I efforts, and related conversations should be held at all levels of the organization.

“So it’s not just let’s do this at the recruitment stage,” Zaniello said. “It really is how do we think about all of our work—whether it’s membership, communications, finance, outreach, partnerships—how do we think about creating those efforts in a way that truly reflect an organization being as inclusive as possible.”


Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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