Membership Memo: Get Better D+I Data

Build trust and help members self-identify with better diversity and inclusion data gathering.

To track your association’s progress on diversity, equity, and inclusion, it helps to know your own membership demographics. That may seem obvious, but it’s not easy, says Vicki Deal-Williams, FASAE, CAE, chief staff officer for multicultural affairs at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

A generation ago, some Black people hesitated to share their race on surveys because of fears of discrimination, she says. Today’s generation doesn’t provide it because they don’t see it as an important factor for segmentation. Younger generations are more diverse, and they define that diversity differently.

“Some of them can’t see a way of fully representing any of their dimensions by checking a box, because those dimensions don’t exist in isolation,” Deal-Williams says. “They are not just Black. They are Black and female, or Black and LGBTQ, or Black and Latinx.”

That’s why it is essential to give your members as many options to fully identify who they are. For example, “we have to consider sex and gender identity and offer individuals a way to self-identify without forcing them into categories others have chosen for them,” she says.

Collecting demographic data can be difficult, but, as with many things, the best way to get it is to ask for it. Trust will be key. “The only way to ask for it is to be fully transparent about why you want and need it, what you’re planning to do with it, and how you’ll safeguard it,” Deal-Williams says.

This year has provided innumerable challenges. People have lost faith in all kinds of institutions, Deal-Williams says, but they also recognize they can’t survive alone, and they know they will need to associate with others to raise a collective voice about their concerns—which they have seen firsthand can be effective.

“Hopefully, they’ll turn to associations as a source for that sense of community, and they’ll trust us as long as we don’t betray that trust,” she says, adding that it will be critical for associations to work to ensure confidentiality and appropriate use of this data.

“Addressing diversity requires a strategic approach. An organization has to determine where they are and create a vision of what they realistically want to achieve, and then set out on a journey toward that future state,” she says. “You’ll never know if you’ve made progress if you haven’t put a pin in where you started and track your path to note how far you’ve come.”

(People Images/Getty Images)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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