Statement on Diversity
By Guimel DeCarvalho, Director of People & Culture
Posted April, 2017
Wayside is objectively one of the most committed to diversity and inclusion organizations in our field. In fact Wayside ranks in the 88th percentile of agencies nationally in staff satisfaction with our commitment to diversity. However, there is no easy solution to ensuring equity in the workplace, and we have started the hard work of shaping our organization into a committed leader for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This week, at the suggestion and with the support of our CEO, Eric Masi, I participated in a two day training titled “Healing Racism” and a three day conference put on by NonProfitHR titled “Talent and Culture Summit” where I attended multiple breakout sessions on DEI. Each of these trainings and seminars has crystalized for me how Wayside can evolve our cohesive strategy for DEI to achieve our honest intent and sincere commitment to the mission of diversity for our organization.
From the mind to the heart. The “Healing Racism” experiential training was designed to provide a foundational knowledgebase and introduce the journey of how to heal racism to its participants. The training once more defined racism, microaggressions (a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group), white privilege (the historical roots of systemic oppression), and white fragility (defense mechanisms to avoid dealing with racial stress). However, the trainers demonstrated that knowing the definition does not automatically enable folks to talk about experiencing these things, fixing them, providing a remedy, or connecting with someone who is living those experiences. This training was about learning how to feel rather than learning how to know. Participants felt what it meant to sit with emotion, to be uncomfortable, and learned how to slow down the conversation long enough to connect with the reality and totality of racism/systems of oppression.
The framework. The DEI seminars were designed to build on each other throughout the conference. They offered concrete, practical guidelines, with case examples, that were specific to nonprofits. The Equity Contiuum is an evidenced based framework that is being developed by Monisha Kapila, CEO of ProInspire. It outlines three phases of DEI through an organizational focus, leadership, and strategies, as follows:
• 101: Diversity - when leaders are awake to the importance of diversity, and the organization starts building a diverse workforce by focusing on recruitment and retention.
• 201: Inclusion - when leaders become woke about social issues and injustices, and the organization focuses on creating an inclusive culture by viewing and managing cultural change.
• 301: Equity - when leaders are doing the work to become anti-racist/anti-oppression, and the organization is driving equity inside and outside the organization by addressing structural and institutional oppression.
Wayside’s organizational strategy has vigorously embraced the importance of organizational diversity and inclusion, and has focused on recruitment and retention efforts to build and develop our workforce (101). The leadership (through instituting and supporting the work of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee), has started has been looking towards ways of building an inclusive work environment (201). The strategic goal would be to move to equity and dismantling structural and institutional oppression (301). This framework was immensely helpful for me to understand and contextualize our incredible efforts so far and where we can go from here.
The circle of trust. The most important thing I have learned from Wayside’s DEI is that safety is paramount. If folks don’t feel trust, or that they are in a safe space, we are left with no foundation, and can easily hurt people even if we have every intention to help. This conference has highlighted how important it is to assume good intent, communicate beyond the surface, and share your real views.
The skunk at the garden party starts the courageous conversation. Once our circle of trust is established, then it becomes okay to be the “skunk at the garden party”. It feels safe to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and “call in” (challenge to participate and grow) when something seems wrong. A microaggression, diversity disparity, or even an incorrect administrative form, warrant a discussion. No matter how big or how small, if no one is willing to speak up and call it out, it could be overlooked. Wayside leadership is committed to addressing our community’s concerns, and hope that folks will speak up and engage us in discussion.
Social capital. For Wayside, this refers to establishing trust-based networks of people to foster a culture of trust and reciprocity. We encourage folks to develop strong and high-quality relationships. There is a value to these networks (i.e. jobs, information, support, etc.), and Wayside supports the building of this social capital between our staff and our clients. Our goal is to build bridges between diverse people. The most important part of the Wayside Leadership Academy, aside from the content of the sessions, is the opportunity for Senior Team members to connect with our participating staff of color over the concept of leadership.
An equity lens. Wayside aims to evaluate our strategy and day-to-day activities through an equity lens. Are our forms in all our clients’ languages? Does our leave policy work for all of our staff? Do our performance evaluations guard against implicit bias? Does our Board of Directors reflect our clients and our staff? Who participates in decision-making? Are we willing to continuously do this work? My goal is for Wayside to work towards answering the above questions with equity always in mind.
Data and accountability. I need you, the members of the Wayside community, to hold me and every level of Wayside accountable to this work. Senior Team is taking stock of the work we have done so far, and we ask for your feedback and participation. We need your voice at the table. Take our surveys and answer honestly and directly, email me with suggestions, share what you are doing in your own life to become anti-racist. Join the Wayside Diversity and Inclusion Committee, start an affinity group at your program/region, participate in a stay interview, and encourage folks to be candid in an exit interview. Tell us about a climate where there is of lack of trust. Engage in courageous conversations and report back the lessons learned. Wayside can continue to grow into a strong, model organization that exemplifies Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the ultimate benefit of our clients, the community and ourselves.
Wayside will do the work to become an anti-racist, social justice, and advocacy organization that provides mental health services to children and families.