Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting More Players on the All-Star Team

On Tuesday, I was invited to join a few others folks as a workshop presenter on The Future of Learning for a session at the 2012 ASAE Great Ideas Conference.  I didn't know who else was going to be involved, but I was honored to be asked and excited about the possibility.

On Wednesday, I learned the names of the four other presenters and could immediately understand why a colleague kindly described us as an All-Star Team.  It was most flattering, and ego aside, I think it's a pretty accurate assessment.  Each of us brings many years working on learning, associations, knowledge development, and strategy.  Each of us is well-known as a consistent and reliable professional and presenter.

And each of us white.

And I'm struggling with that.  A lot.

I'm struggling because while we are definitely qualified to talk about the future of learning, future learners (and truthfully, a significant percentage of those in the present) are not going to look like our team: four white guys and one white female.

I'm struggling because while it is tough to ensure significant diversity is represented when you only have one or two keynote speakers, panel or multiple-presenter sessions should be the place where we can truly model the way.

I'm struggling because I feel once again "it's hard" became "we can't."

Realizing our commitment to diversity and inclusion has been hard for some time.  Labeling it as difficult has not made it any easier, nor has it led to significant enough changes.

As my favorite freak-flag flyer, Joe Gerstandt, would say: Where's the evidence?

When I worked on the college campus, the phrase affirmative action was still used more frequently.  One of my mentors instilled in us that it wasn't at all about a quota, it was about being intentionally affirmative, taking significant action to ensure under-represented voices would be included and heard.  This affirmative commitment went far beyond traditional demographic characteristics.

I'm a 40-something, reasonably successful, gay white guy from the Midwest. I'm smart enough to know that when I initially got a seat at the proverbial table, it's because someone else pulled up some more chairs and/or helped me get an invite.  While I work hard for my professional success, I am 100% aware that some of what has accrued to me is undoubtedly due to white privilege I cannot begin to fully understand. 

But I'll tell you what I do understand.  If I am indeed an All-Star, the only way I got on this team is because somehow I got to play and demonstrate my capabilities. For whatever reason, I got called up from the bench or invited into the game.   And I got to learn from being on a team of people, any one of whom probably could hit it out of the park better than me on many a day.

I want to be on the All-Star team for the future, not playing the game for Living Legends.

Things have to change.  Now.  Too much rhetoric for far too long.  It's time for results.

Otherwise the players we've left on the bench will go create their own game.  And guess what?  We'll then be the ones wondering why no one asks us to play.

I'll be damned if I'm going to sit on the bench on this issue.

8/25 Update Below (note: the first four comments to this post appeared before this update was added)

As one of the comments already posted suggests, this issue will not be without passions from multiple perspectives.  I applaud that and hope that what we can collectively become most passionate about are demonstrated results.  We're not going to get an A for effort when it comes to diversity and inclusion.  My purpose with this post was not to suggest that the individuals developing this particular session aren't committed to diversity. I merely was reacting to the final result: five of the most visible people in our field assembled together and who are all white and whose opinions on the topic at-hand are well-published already.

So let's back out of this example and treat the issue as a bit of a general case study because I don't know all the specifics behind the formulation of the players in this session and this situation is by no means isolated or unique.  Let's say you want to pull together a diverse mix of voices for a conference session, but are wracking your brain trying to figure out who to include.  What do you naturally do?  You first think of folks you would normally turn to for recommendations, your immediate network of "go to" people.  We all have them. Maybe you post a message on a listserv or discussion board, an open call of sorts. You might also call people in your extended network and ask for their recommendations.  You're still not getting many new names, but the program deadline is looming. So you decide to assemble a list of great presenters you know will do a good job.  100% understandable, and I've done exactly that thing in the past.  But it doesn't move the ball forward on diversity and inclusion.

Trying to achieve it in the moment for any particular situation will probably always produce limited results.  We (myself included) need to be constantly expanding our awareness of the talent in our midst in an active, intentional, and methodical way, and holding ourselves accountable for how many new folks ( and the contributions and talents they can contribute) we learn about.  We can't be inclusive of people we don't know, and we won't know new people if we don't change the rhythms of who we hang out with and where we hang out.  This approach is already somewhat in place in social media as we friend 2nd-level connections on Facebook or LinkedIn.  If each of us expands the network of people we know of and can turn to, the aggregate effect could grow the community of visible talent over time. But we also have to be honest with ourselves when our own networks have become less diverse (not just in terms of traditional demographics) than what we might want.  Over the years we may spend more time reconnecting with people we already know and deepening those relationships than reaching out and cultivating new connections.  After all, the hours available to us are limited.

So we need some metrics..  We have to make visible to ourselves the progress (or lack of it) so that we really begin to see things change.   When recently retired Proctor and Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley took the company's leadership helm, he instituted a requirement that a set percentage of future product innovations had to come from outside the company, a company notorious for its work from within culture.  Without a clear standard to judge actions, we're only left to reflect on our intentions.  Imagine a conference that commits to 25% of the speakers each year being new voices who have not previously presented.  You'd have to develop a different year-round strategy to meet that goal.  You know darn well that a conference like TED must have pretty sophisticated scouting systems in place to ensure a wow experience showcasing a significant number of fresh voices each year.

So we can start with ourselves.  I add 3-5 new people every month on Twitter outside my world of influence.  This limited number lets me really spend time reviewing what they tweet, learning about their interests, and connecting with them as I can. Others might cast a far wider net far more quickly.  When I attend a conference, I make a point to come back with 3 new colleagues.  When I am on a committee or council, I commit to spending the most time at our meeting with the people I've never heard of as opposed to the colleagues I already know and love.  And I still fall short of helping advance an issue I believe in deeply.  But I am trying to change my habits in meaningful, yet manageable ways.  Otherwise, my community of contacts ends up being a gated community in which I know everyone on the inside quite well, but vacancies in the neighborhood are infrequent.

For any community to achieve different results in diversity and inclusion will likely require that we change our habits, particularly if the current ones don't seem to be working.  We can't just try to do better at the current events level.  We have to engage in systemic change that ensures different results.

It's going to take a lot of work, personally and collectively.  And it's going to require us to be transparent and say, "What we're doing isn't working.  We need help.  We need new ideas." in more public forums in the hopes of bringing in fresh perspectives with different insights.  I'm trying to help move things along in the only ways I know how.  Those efforts will by no means be perfect just as my own individual commitments and efforts by no means have been (or will be) 100% successful.  I welcome the chance to learn from your example and your comments.


31 comments:

Shelly Alcorn, CAE said...

Brilliantly said. Kudos on a great post.

Shelly

Anonymous said...

You rock. Fantastic, and I agree completely.

Mickie said...

I disagree with the comments. This is not a brilliant or fantastic post. Why? Because criticism is EASY. Jeffrey, as much as I respect your expertise and opinion, I think this post is a bit of a cop out. Everyone involved with identifying this panel recognized that it was not diverse. This is not rocket science. But despite the outreach, the group hasn't yet been able to find a more diverse panel. Many panelists, including myself, have offered to step down to allow others to better represent...but who????? You know this.

I'll be impressed when you move beyond criticizing and help the group find a more diverse panel, but not before. Actions speak louder than words.

I think you are sitting on the bench. You're complaining, but you are not taking action to change the situation. So, help the planning group. Suggest a more diverse panel. Don't just be the fan yelling on the sideline. Help change the outcome of the game.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Mickie, I'd feel less defensive about your comment if the email that came to me had said, "We want do a group on The Future of Learning and are really trying to bring in some fresh voices. We'd love your commendations on some new people that folks may have not heard from in the past."

It didn't. It said I'd been recommended as someone for the panel, would I like to participate. I said yes. Had that initial invite listed everyone else, I immediately would have raised the concern I have voiced and most likely would have declined participation. Lesson learned for me. I should ask for that info upfront and will do so in the future.

I'm not on the PD Council, but I do know a Council member raised this very same issue when just four men were initially proposed for the panel.

Maybe you took my post more personally because you are on the Council. If so, there's nothing I can do about it. I'm using this case as yet another example (199 Ideas comes to mind) when multiple people are being spotlighted, yet it's the same folks, qualified folks we are, but the predictable A-team indeed.

But if 20 or so really competent professionals on one of ASAE's volunteer councils can't think of a more diverse group of qualified presenters, that's the problem that needs to be addressed, one the Council should openly discuss and identify solutions for. Maybe you are and if so, kudos. But at least in this case, your own words suggest it is still quite a challenge.

So how is any Council working to deepen its bench, to discover other talent known outside the immediate networks of its volunteers? Everyone has to get discovered at some point, even those who make their knowledge and potential contributions more visible. Yet a lot of the bench talent right now is probably hidden from the view of the existing leadership networks.

I'm committed to doing just that on the Council where I serve, Executive Management Section. That doesn't preclude me from sharing concerns in other areas where I get invited to participate in some way.

So I'm not on the bench in the area where I am contributing my volunteer time the most. And yes actions do speak louder than words. Judge me by the actions where I most involved and have direct responsibility. But where I don't, one action I can take is voice, which I used here and will continue to do so.

Jeff Hurt said...

Jeffrey:

There is so much more to this story than you or the readers know. It is much more complex than is currently being described.

I agree with you in theory. I agree with your frustration. I too am frustrated as I have been one trying to resolve this issue behind the scenes.

Some of us have asked lots of people of diversity and they've declined including many on the PD Council (which is very diverse by the way!). I can name 20+ people of diversity that I personally asked and they each declined.

As one of the white males on this list of presenters, I have offered my spot to many females and others of diversity. I'm tired of nos. I'm tired of "not mes." I'm tired of others pointing fingers at me that I didn't work hard enough to get a diverse representation.

What do you do when no leaders of diversity will step forward? What do you do when everyone you ask says no? How far do you go in the name of offering someone a seat at the table? There comes a point when the time on this project has to stop. Sure I will continue to expand my network. Sure I will continue to reach out...but that doesn't resolve this issue at hand.

So here's my question to you, Shelly and readers:

When you cannot get diversity of presenters for an education session, do you cancel the session or go ahead and proceed with what's in the best interest of educating the learner? If you cancel, who loses?

All the readers need to know that each presenter only gets five minute to present on the future of association learning. Presenters have to pay their way to the meeting including airfare, lodging, expenses, and registration fee.

What do you do? Oh and by the way, one more thing, you only get 24 hours to resolve this issue because marketing is finalizing the details and will not budge on giving you more time.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Jeff, I greatly appreciate you adding more info about this particular situation. While it is what inspired the post, it by no means is the only challenge in this arena I think we need to talk about.

But in relation to this case and the pending marketing deadline you cite, I say you push back on the deadline if a diverse mix of presenters is indeed a metric for success. It's a preliminary printed program and sessions no doubt could be added online later and definitely on-site.

You ask those of us invited to be on the panel to try and leverage influence we might have with some of the people who said no in order to get them engaged. I wasn't informed this was a critical timing situation, nor was I asked to try and help diversify the panel. I was merely invited and then confirmed.

It has to be frustrating if you feel you tried a lot of the tactics and they didn't work. So let's make that the conversation and engage more of the community. Let's make that the session topic or request one be added: How do you diversify your presenters if you can't get anyone to commit?

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

And Jeff, I guess the other option is you take the conversation public ... to the community. You disclose what you've shared here and you say "We're trying, but it's not working, and we need your help."

Those of us in volunteer leadership need to own this opportunity or challenge, but it's shared ownership with the community we serve. We don't have to solve it for them, but perhaps with them.

Paul Pyrz said...

One of the most difficult things for us to do as a society is bring up issues that we know we struggle with and then to be able to stay in the space to have the hard conversations without doubting our motives.

This is great post. I have no doubt that all involved have good intentions and I don't think you are suggesting otherwise. You are making an observation. You are making an observation that I would wager was similar to any person of color that was in the audience.

Keep fighting the good fight, Jeffrey. Thanks for saying what needs to be said.

Stefanie Reeves said...

Hi Jeffrey,
As a person of color in associations, I do get discouraged at times when I go to conferences and don't see a wide range of diverse voices speaking from the podium. And yes, not everyone wants to participate. Some people prefer to be spectators. However, there are diverse voices out there who do want to give back. We want to participate on panels and speak at ASAE, Great Ideas etc... I'm one of them. I know more than a few who will say yes to these opportunities. Are folks tapping into the DELP Scholar network? We are over 100 strong and cover the vast knowledge base of associations. We applied for this program for the specific purpose of contributing to the larger association community. Finding diverse speakers should not be a problem, but sadly it is.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Thanks Stefanie. I'm not sure what sources folks turned to in their recruitment efforts. I've got a call in to chat with Alexis Terry about what all of the Councils can be doing in this arena since it is a shared opportunity.

And nothing would please me more than to get to rock the front of the room for a program some day, so whenever you want to present something, please keep me in mind.

Jamie Notter said...

Wow. This is such a big one. I'm not sure if I'll be articulate enough here, but I want to contribute to the conversation.

Diversity and inclusion is big and messy and system-wide. That's just one of the reasons it's hard to talk about. So when lack of diversity shows up (like this panel), we stop, like Jeffrey did, and say "what the heck is up with that?!" And then we often turn to a small group of people (the organizer of the conference, the committee, the presenters themselves, the executive team, etc.) and we say "why did you give us this result that is unacceptable?" And they will always say, "but we tried as hard as we could." And for the most part, that is going to be true. They tried hard! They usually do.

I feel like we blame the second-to-last domino for knocking the last one down (or we take on too much of the burden as the second-to-last domino, or something like that). The association community is ridiculously white. That's a problem, because too much homogeneity is a problem in any living system. We're not going to solve that problem, however, by focusing exclusively on those positive end results (more diverse panels). We need to address it in all corners of the system.

Having diverse panels is one way to make the experience more attractive to people of color, but it's not the only way. DELP helps a lot, but there is so much more to be done. For me, when the all-white panel hits me in the face, or the mostly white Board, or whatever it is, my first reaction is not to look at that one result and how it happened. It happened because changing a fucked up system is really hard, particularly when privilege is at stake. So I take a step back and say, okay more broadly what needs to be done to make a shift here? It’s at that point that I end up looking in the mirror.

Have I done at conferences what Jeffrey's talking about--seeking out people different than me to connect to? Not really. Am I making a strong effort to connect to the awesome people of color in our community? Nope. I have to say, I'm ashamed to admit it. It’s not consistent with who I say I am and what I believe. And it’s not that I am avoiding them on purpose, or anything. But I'm not seeking them out. Why? Because I can. That's part of my privilege. I can easily find loads of awesome white people to hang around with. So I settle for that. In the mean time, I’m guessing the awesome people of color are feeling kind of invisible. And after a while, they may stop coming to the conference. And then when someone asks me to suggest a person of color for a panel… I can’t think of anyone.

There are a million things to be done to make the association community more diverse and vibrant and exciting. To make it a place where the inherent diversity of our community just can’t help but to be expressed. Working hard to have diverse panels is one of them. Let’s keep trying, even if it doesn’t work every time. But another one of them is that I need to wake up and get off my ass and start making connections with the people whose presence our community is missing. I need to move towards the not-familiar. Thank you for the reminder.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

jamie, appreciate your transparency and insight more than words can express.

As you aptly note, it's systems issue and the manifestation if panel or board composition are just mere examples of the work we still have to do.

Maddie Grant said...

I have to respond to this discussion from a slightly different perspective, as a "bridger". I've been asked to participate in some things as a minority voice (woman, Asian) but I'm also, I think you can say, part of the "new old guard" (as in, someone fairly visible in the association community who speaks at a lot of conferences and has been on councils) and I was included in one of the 199 ideas books that was mentioned earlier. Unlike Jamie, I know tons of "diverse" people - because this is something I care a lot about - and may have been able to help find some to speak on that particular panel. Maybe.

So what I'm wondering is, how do we find more "bridgers" - people we can ask to bridge the gap, people who might be able to reach into the groups and communities who are not so visible or so "inside the bubble" and find the new and different voices we're looking for? Maybe what Jeffrey said about engaging more of the community (in general) is a start. If we could be more inclusive in terms of planning sessions of all kinds out in the open, and using all kinds of public channels to look for the expertise we need, maybe that would work better to start to move the needle.

Ellen Behrens said...

Jeffrey -- So glad you raised this issue, and for the resulting comments! I couldn't help thinking that recruiting panelists that represent diversity is a challenge in *every* association. Because diversity isn't always about racial or gender inclusiveness. Sometimes it's about finding members with a particular array of experiences, areas of expertise, etc....

It sounds to me as though the council reached out but couldn't find the match they were hoping for.

So it's not just about identifying and inviting those we'd like to see involved.

Maybe something else is going on. Maybe the cost of attending is prohibitive:

-- Maybe the organization needs to provide travel stipends to those who need them.

-- Maybe the organization needs to find ways to include remote presenters and panelists via Skype or a Web conferencing platform (!! What a concept!!) to work around scheduling or cost issues.

Maybe we need to open ourselves to more diverse ways of holding these sessions, too.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Maddie, you need to call Malcolm Gladwell and sell him the term "bridger." It is a nice addition that complements "connector" and "maven" from The Tipping Point.

You share what I think is a strategy with a lot of potential, spending some time engaging with the community to identify the folks who can help bridge and connect more. I've been around too long to easily know whose on the side of the bridge way across from me, but others are at different points in their journey (the new old guard as you say) and could really make a difference.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Ellen: You've raised lots of good questions that challenge us to explore what might be getting in the way of people otherwise saying yes. It's worth finding that out and then looking for reasonable accommodations or other ways we can engage or involve folks (such as Skype).

Anonymous said...

Help me understand....why does "fresh" have to be non-white? Are white incapable of "fresh" ideas?

I suggest we take diversity and color blindness seriously and refrain from making any judgements based exclusively on skin color? As the sports industry has taught us, a true All Star team is based on merit and nothing else.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Anonymous: Fresh doesn't have to be just non-white and my post doesn't assert that is does. As you noted established players (like myself since I am one of the speakers involved here) can certainly bring fresh thinking to a program, and we do.

But I believe we also need to ensure that the mix of presenters is fresh overall and is inclusive not just of known speakers with new thinking, but of voices we haven't heard before who may bring new perspectives.

And personally I don't believe you can take color or gender blindness seriously if you are committed to diversity and inclusion in a world with increasing ethnic and racial diversity. Professional societies commit to creating and being a community for their members. When people decide to join a community one of the considerations often is, "Do I see myself (all the different layers of my identity and interests in that community)? That can be range from an academic wondering if she will feel welcome in an organization dominated by corporate members to individuals and their gender, race, or sexual orientation. Being blind to that doesn't change that decision-making consideration for the other person.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

And I have to say, the All-Star teams in sports are most definitely NOT based only on true talent. They often include huge measures of popularity with the fans and in some sports are exclusively selected through fan voting. Who do fans vote for? The players they know best. Who is often selected for conference programs? The presenters known best?

I grow tired of the issue of talent being raised when questions of diversity and inclusion are posed. For me that triggers flashbacks to quota and affirmative action conversations and is not particularly helpful given what is being suggested.

I'm not in any way saying let's go assemble a group of untalented, but ethnically diverse people to speak at our conferences. The visual is merely a catalyst for the question of "Is there evidence of our commitment to diversity and inclusion?? While it is by no means the only evidence, it most certainly is evidence that people consider as noted by other commenters in this thread.

Maggie McGary said...

I think Stefanie's suggestion of looking to the DELP scholars, both present and future, is a great one. I also think ASAE either offering stipends or waiving the registration fee for speakers for whom travel or registration fees are a barrier would help. Sure consultants and senior association leaders have budget to attend ASAE meetings, but those lower on the totem pole or newer in their careers may not have those same resources at their disposal.

Another thing we can all do is use the tried-and-true old boys club method to pull friends of color or different ethnicity into the association world. It's no mystery that white guys get each other jobs in the association world--how about extending that privilege to non-white professionals who may not have had the same opportunities others have had? For instance, I have a friend who I've repeatedly encouraged to get involved with ASAE and with DELP, but have I brought her with me to local events or made the introduction to people who may be able to help her career-wise? I think if each of us makes a point to become more personally accountable as far as increasing the overall diversity of ASAE membership, it would go a long way towards ensuring situations like the one that Jeffrey describes in this post become less common. Instead of just looking around the room at an ASAE meeting and thinking "everyone in this room is white," actually make an effort to do something to change that. I know I personally could do a better job of this, and I think this post and the resulting comments are a great inspiration to ramp up my efforts.

Tinu said...

We have to start somewhere, and criticism is often the place. If no one is talking about it, no one will do anything about it. And just this post showing that the desire to be inclusive does so much more than you know.

It may feel like not enough people are hearing and understand you, Jeffrey, but I assure you, this post is traveling through some of the community of people who can actually DO something about solving the problem, from both sides.

Part of what you said in the update is spot on: there has to be an on-going effort to search, to get those people in the audience, and from there into the available pool of applicants.

We also have to dispense with this idea that if we didn't find diversity, it doesn't exist at the top.

Just as true - this issue is extraordinarily complex. You've got to find the audience, perhaps only to find that you had them already.

You'd have to invite them to be on the panels, perhaps to find out they have other reasons for not being on the panel that are economic or relate to scheduling.

You could find the perfect person, who's not a part of the Association world. Or who has some other personality issue or conflict with someone else important who is involved.

In other words, it's a whole new crop of problems On Top of the world of issues you're already dealing with.

It's not an insurmountable problem. But it's a mistake for anyone to think it's an issue of whether or not these folks exists, as much as it is to blame those assembling the panel of people.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

I hope you will take the step you just outlined Maggie as it will inspire more of us to do the same.

One of the things I emailed to some ASAE staffers today (as well as Tweeted about) is the idea of creating a coaching/mentoring/support network for ppl who may want to present, but have never done so before. In other words, growing our own faculty.

As a grad assistant I often co-presented with a faculty or staff member and that's where I learned a lot about program design. Formalizing such opportunities in an association might help bring in people with great knowledge to share who may be unsure about their abilities to do so.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Complex it is TInu, and as you note, often changing. I appreciate your reminding us of that.

And for me, the idea of blame has never been a consideration. It's always been about looking at the end result and asking how it squares up with what the overall aspirations are for the community.

As someone mentioned to me offline: "Look you five are probably the most prolific thinkers right now on this topic. Why wouldn't you be the presenters?"

So lots of different issues in play, and I'm glad to learn from you that the conversation is happening in other places of which I may not be aware.

Tom Morrison said...

I love the way people always try and put blame on others for there not being more diversity in a room of people whether a meeting, board or panel.

Diversity challenges are solved when one person invites a person of ethnic diversity or difference (whatever what you want to call it) to participate AND the person of color/diversity says "I want to participate."

I can remember being at a YAP event last year at RFD in DC and saw one of my colleagues of ethnic diversity, who I did not even know, standing against the wall. I could tell she really wanted to dance. Without hesitation, I walked across the room and asked her to dance. She got a big smile on her face, came to the dance floor and we danced for the next hour. I asked without reason of color, but because she was simply a female colleague... a human being.

We are now association friends.

It will all make huge progress when their is a genuine offer and a desirable acceptance to participate at the association level. If either the offer or the acceptance is not wanted, that is where it breaks down.

Don't blame those making the offer for the lack of acceptance. It may mean, there needs to be better education and awareness to those of diversity of the awesome opportunities available to them.

But you can't force diversity on those who do not want to participate. So lets begin the awareness and encourage them in how awesome it would be for them to participate. I'll be first in line to speak to them....

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Tom, I don't believe we have ever met so I appreciate you stopping by and joining in the conversation. From what I've heard about you, you have lots of energy.

I have no interesting in blaming anyone for anything. I'm not in a position to do so, nor do I see any benefit in even trying. I'm focused on what do we need to do individually and collectively if we want to produce a different result in the future and what can we learn from how this result occurred.

I 100% agree that individual connection at the interpersonal level is where relationships and commitments begin. Perhaps you can use some of your awesomeness to get a few hundred association executives to make exactly that commitment. We might then start to make some real progress that doesn't seem to be happening enough yet.

Joan Eisenstodt said...

I add to Shelly's "bravo" on this. My sense, after reading what you wrote, Jeffrey, and reading the comments, is that you were reflecting and not blaming. And as one who has, for years, written on eval. forms for ASAE and other orgs. and written suggestions about the lack of diversity of age, ability, ethnicity, religion or belief, color, etc., I understand the frustration.

This may ramble - it's about thinking this through.

First a thought about the session: I cringed at "panel"! Hopefully and esp. because it's for GI, it won't be what we normally think of as a panel presentation - that is, sages on the stage. I hope that the audience, which tends not to be terribly diverse [meaning they are from orgs. that can afford to send someone and are often more senior in their age or position] is brought into the conversation in many ways.

DELP: I asked ASAE why there wasn't a DELP scholar on every council and committee. Not a "diversity" seat; rather a seat for DELP scholars who are promised mentors and leadershp opportunities. Matching Scholars interests and having new voices makes a difference. I hope this can be done for the future.

Diversity perception: I don't appear diverse -- and in the active ASAE community I am: older white woman - not diverse. Jewish Atheist - diverse. Non-college grad w/ no letters after her name: diverse. I, like Jeffrey, have been afforded opportunities for leadership in ASAE. Would I have been if my diversity, esp. education level, were known? I'd like to think so; I'm not sure.

Just as people hate talking about ethics*, they hate talking about diversity. They believe that conversation happened years ago.

It didn't. It will always be important. And this is a good beginning.

Thanks, Jeffrey.

* I know - I chair ASAE's Ethics Cmte. Ethics and diversity and inclusion are thought not to be "sexy" issues. Maybe not; they're just critical.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Thanks for commenting Joan. The session actually has a quite innovative format based on the TV show Shark Tank. I don;t think I used the word panel to describe it, but if I did it was most definitely unintentional.

Shelly Alcorn in a post related to this one references how Joe Gerstandt suggests using the word difference instead of diversity. I'm all for using whatever language helps us think about the multiplicity of perspectives and identified it would be helpful to have included among our conference faculty.

David M. Patt, CAE said...

I produced a meeting with six presenters - 3 men and 3 women. All three women canceled in the last week, but promised to send replacements.

The replacements were all men.

So the meeting, in which the majority of attendees were women, offered six guys as presenters.

The knowledge was great, the discussions were great, and nobody complained about the gender composition.

But I would have liked to display a more diverse group.

Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE said...

I love the point Joan made about seats for DELPers. I love Shelly's point about difference versus diversity. I don't love when difference/diversity gets reduced to race/ethnicity, just because it's easy to see. Diversity is about what's different than a particular community norm, so in this context it might include: young professionals, second careerers, people with disabilities, people from outside the DC area, people from small associations...I think we need to expand our thinking on this topic. A lot.

Rod Toneye said...

I don't remember how i came across this discussion, but I'm glad I did. I applaud Jeffrey for raising his concerns publicly with deep personal insights and honesty. Let's face it, we all are not on the same levels of embracing diversity. Eg. When I first joined my judo club I was an enthusiastic fan, but not a blackbelt expert, even tho' I was in the same room with several higher ranked judo enthusiasts.

My development over time to 'expert' level was painful and often frustrating, but I persisted. Isn't my judo experience similar to what it takes to undo our category privileges and evolve to higher ranks of diversity practice? I think Jeffrey is among the higher ranked practitioners I've observed commenting in this discussion chain. Let's keep it going.

Alexis Terry said...

Kudos to you, Jeffrey, for opening the door to a topic that ASAE and other associations find both challenging and important to address.

The circumstances mentioned—capacity to develop broader networks, risks/rewards of choosing a speaker who everyone isn’t already familiar with, navigating effort and comfort zones, etc. –apply to ASAE and many associations. Wherever folks are on the spectrum, here are three ways to diversify your speaker rolodex, and make the most of the one you already have:

1. Take the guesswork out of growing diversity in your network

Look at the list of authors of your top 5 business books. Are a majority of them of the same gender? Age range? Race? If every member of your selection committee did this, how much diversity would you find? Often authors get selected as speakers or presenters. So, next time you’re browsing for ideas or individuals with expertise on a particular topic, let’s say marketing, try also searching within an identity group. For instance, type in the term “Hispanic and marketing” or “marketing and LGBT” and see who/what pops up. Check out your blog roll, too!

2. Engage diverse audiences early in your selection process

How much diversity is there among your selection committee? Prepare yourself - some folks may roll their eyes when you ask this question. This article of do’s and don’ts for dealing with disgruntled folks or diversity naysayers may be helpful to you. Lack of diversity on the selection committee won't go unnoticed, particularly if you scramble to get a more diverse speaker line up at the last moment because you suddenly realize that you could look bad otherwise. The National Association of Colleges and Employers has a great resource list of national associations that reach/serve different identity groups. Members of these organizations can serve as great contacts and connectors for you. If you reach out when you’re in a time crunch and the program is ready to roll, don’t be surprised if folks turn down your invitation. ASAE has been there done that. Thankfully, our members called us on it. Not only did we accept the criticism, but we made changes and it has helped us become a better organization.

3. Avoid misperceptions about your intentions

All of us want our invitations and intentions to be received positively. Before you reach out, review this list to aid in your ability to ensure your message has a chance of resonating with different audiences. If someone declines a speaking invitation, ask for 2-3 recommendations of other potential speakers who would be a good fit based on the stated criteria. Being thoughtful in your outreach and explicit about your commitment to diversity upfront will not only save you from choosing the wrong folks…or being accused of being the wrong folks to make the selection…but it will also improve your chances of reaching your diversity objectives.

We are always listening, learning and looking for ideas on how to improve our speaker line up and pipeline, so please send us your ideas/suggestions.

Thank you again for opening the conversation.

Alexis Terry
director, diversity + inclusion
ASAE