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Melissa Johnson, CSWA President, July, 2017
The Clinical Social Work Association has been working for several months to assess and discuss diversity of our membership. Several Societies have begun to develop programs to promote diversity awareness. Based on their work, below are some suggestions.
Define your terms. Everyone has a different idea about what diversity means. Beyond race and gender, it can also include but is not limited to considerations of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental and physical capabilities, gender identity, family status, language, opinions and experience.
Assess. Review your bylaws and clauses that define diversity standards; check for any institutional bias or exclusionary language. Start a conversation about diversity and inclusion with Board members and within your Society. Be prepared to have difficult conversations. Collect rich data; the goal of a survey is not just a head count, but rather the beginning of an education process.
Listen and affirm. Ask about the experiences of your members. Do not make assumptions about how people view this complicated issue. Encourage all Board members to evaluate their own perspective. Don’t scold or shame those who are struggling with understanding.
Learn, share, educate. Offer trainings; invite speakers; build coalitions with other associations; plan a conference on diversity and inclusion. Identify all of the ways you can define diversity and how inclusion is experienced within your society and the profession. Embed these principles in your leadership and others will follow.
Contact Melissa Johnson, CSWA Board President or any of the board members if you want to discuss these concepts with other Societies or find experts to conduct trainings. It helps to not have to reinvent the wheel. CSWA wants all its members and Societies to be self-aware about what healthy understanding and acceptance of diversity means to them and others.
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