Women’s Health Group Releases “Accountability, Belonging, and Culture” Statement

New messaging is intended to acknowledge the diversity of AWHONN’s members and their patients.

Last month a leading women’s health association made changes to the language around its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, reflecting conversations within its own membership and national disputes around the term.

The “Accountability, Belonging, and Culture Statement” was released in June by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). Danielle D. Jones, PhD, VP of accountability, belonging, and culture at the association, said the move was motivated in part by misinformation around the meaning and intentions of the term “DEI.”

“In January, I started having conversations with the executive team and our marketing and communications people about all the ways the language of DEI was being misrepresented, and perhaps also weaponized,” Jones said. “We needed to reframe the conversation.”

“We needed to reframe the conversation.”

Danielle D. Jones, AWHONN

The breadth of the statement is meant to target two general concerns among AWHONN membership, Jones said. First is that the association needed to acknowledge the needs not just of its membership but also their patients. “We’re trying to create a sense of belonging in our own members, but we we also wanted to reflect our commitment to the patients served by our members,” she said.

Second, the statement is also designed to voice support for trans, nonbinary, and other gender identities. Jones said there have been discussions within AWHONN staff and among membership about whether the word “woman” should be in the association’s name. That’s not a change the association is prepared to address yet, Jones said, but it did want to acknowledge the diversity of the people it serves. “We’ve had people saying, ‘I take care of trans patients who don’t identify as women,’” she said. “That’s why we mention nonbinary, trans, and birthing people. There was consensus across the board on that.”

The shift to the ABC statement keeps the association’s DEI efforts intact. The DEI committee will be renamed the ABC committee in the fall, Jones said; her job title has already changed from VP of diversity, equity, and inclusion to reflect the shift. But the new statement reflects AWHONN’s awareness that the nursing profession has a great deal of influence in how people are treated, especially those from marginalized communities.

“The statement reflects our desire to change the culture of nursing,” Jones said. “There is a large body of evidence that suggests the culture of nursing has some secondary, indirect outcomes on patients. We are affecting populations that are vulnerable because they are part of a marginalized or minoritized community, particularly around the black maternal mortality and morbidity crisis. As an association that’s accountable to nurses and responsible for the nursing profession, we have a responsibility to also shape nursing culture.”

(Maria Petrishina/iStock)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!