1. How do I know if I have a diversity issue or the extent of the issue?
There are probably numerous ways you can look at diversity and inclusion in an organization. One straightforward way is to see how closely your staff – and probably more particularly your executive staff – approximates diversity of the coaches, athletic/activity directors, other school staff or the students you are representing. You may already have some of this data, particularly for coaches and athletic/activity directors. You may also get some of the school-type census data from state or provincial departments of educations or a national department of education, particularly regarding public school students. One source of this data in the United States is the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at www.nces.ed.gov.
There are assessment tools that can be used to tell you where you and your organization stand regarding diversity and minority inclusion. Some assessment tools help determine cultural diversity or competence or responses to cultural differences. See the resources for some sampleassessments. For starters, a quick assessment would be to consider the cultural competence of your organization from two dimensions. Is there conscious or unconscious awareness of diversity issues in the general practice of the organization’s work? The second dimension would be the competence or lack of competence in handling cultural differences in the general work of the organization. These two dimensions would then result in four categories to describe cultural competence. An initial category would be unconscious incompetence where there is little awareness of cultural differences and limited skill in addressing those differences. If you were unaware of a situation, you would feel no need to address it. The next category is conscious incompetence where there is awareness of cultural differences. However, understanding, strategies and resources to work with those differences are limited and elementary at best. The third category is conscious competence where there is awareness of cultural differences and there is more confidence and competence in addressing cultural differences. There is a strong desire to be competent along with good sense of the benefits of doing so. Yet, it is still not “natural” or commonplace. The final category is unconscious competence, where being culturally competent in cultural differences is more natural and automatic. A very good understanding and respect for diversity is present along with the necessary strategies, skills and resources.
This rather simplistic tool can be applied to any number of competencies and may be done on an individual as well as organizational level. The categories can apply to individual skills learned in sports and fine arts. For instance, as a young person discovers the game of basketball, he or she quickly goes from a stage of unconscious incompetence about shooting free throws to a stage of conscious incompetence. The player knows free throws are part of the game, but isn’t very good at shooting them. As the player practices, he or she becomes consciously competent, paying very close attention and even modifying the technique. The goal is to reach a stage of unconscious competence where the player shoots free throws with little thought, and to some extent, unconsciously. This is the goal of many athletic and performing arts skills, to be unconsciously competent. The reason for repeated practice over time is to become nearly automatic in doing some of these tasks.
This example helps to point out that these categories are not so discrete, but could be put on more of a continuum. However, it does help make the point that there are some essential elements along the path to becoming more competent: a desire to be more competent including being intentional about becoming more competent, continual practice and work, and making the competence almost automatic, part of the way we do things.
This tool along with some other information about your organization should help give you a gauge of where you are at with diversity. Again for more about assessment tools see the Assessment section.
2. How do I develop diversity for my workplace in my area, if almost all who apply for positions are from the majority population? How do I find minority candidates?
One place to start is to examine the sources of your applicants or workers. Formal or informal contacts and networks develop within organizations when they look to hire employees or retain workers. If these contacts or networks are primarily made up of the majority culture or lacking any minority or under-represented groups that you are looking to include, you likely will need to expand your networks to more organizations that are more diverse or represent under-represented groups. Check with organizations like the Urban League (www.nul.org), the NAACP (www.naacp.org) and other organizations representing minorities and women. Several of these organizations have regional, state or local offices that can assist. School boards or principals associations (NSBA, NASSP) and others may also be able to assist with expanding your pool of applicants, workers or vendors. State or local employment offices may also be able to assist in expanding your reach for applicants and workers. If you have internships, you will want to look at expanding the pool of colleges and universities from which you typically get your interns. Check for colleges and universities with significant minority populations.
Another is to review your JOB or worker posting to make sure they reflect what is actually needed for the position and its language is not biased to favor the majority population or over-represented group. That is often white, middle-class males, but not always, particularly for some positions. Some of the organizations mentioned above may also be willing to help with this review.
One place to start would be to do diversity or cultural competence training for your existing staff. This would give you an opportunity to introduce your vision for becoming a more diverse workforce and why that is important. (Rationale and Vision statements in Forming a Foundation Section.) Such training should help create a work environment more open to diversity, including minorities and other under-represented groups. Having an inclusive work environment is an important part of attracting and keeping people of diverse backgrounds. This diversity or cultural competence training should also help the staff with its interactions with athletic directors, coaches, officials and others with whom it comes in contact and is from different cultural backgrounds.
Highlighting how diversity helps fulfill your mission as an organization is an important part of the process. You will probably need to help some others see how it fits into their work and the organization’s work. This will likely take time, and you will probably need to keep coming back to your rationale and vision for diversity and inclusion fairly often to help others see that it is a value of the organization. You will be changing the culture of your workplace and workforce. It will take time and being intentional to integrate diversity into the many aspects of your work. It is a mindset, a frame of thinking, and a value that will be needed by leaders in order to be integrated into the rest of the workforce.
One thing to do is to examine your position postings with a critical eye to make sure the language is inclusive of and attractive to minorities and under-represented groups. In addition make sure they focus on what is actually needed for the JOB. Step back from the descriptions and reflect on the actual tasks performed in a job often. You may need to ask yourself, “Is this what is really needed? Is this what I would like? And why do I like it? Is it what I am familiar with? Is it what we have used in the past? Does it reflect a cultural bias? Are there other skills, requirements, or experience that might be just as important as those typically listed?” Creating job descriptions and materials is far from an exact science. There are numerous ways they can be done. It is very easy for these materials to reflect the cultural background and bias of those who created them. You may want some other opinions on the position descriptions, including from those outside your organization and those who specialize in diversity and minority affairs.
Another thing is to look at your typical pool of applicants. You can probably track rather easily where the majority of those applicants are coming from. If you can, and it is not providing a diverse pool of applicants, you will want to expand your sources for attracting applicants. The list of resource organizations can probably help with that, and you can probably come up with other organizations or networks to help expand your pool of applicants for positions.
Look at your procedures for taking in and screening applications for a position. All applications should all be handled in a similar manner. They should be collected in a centralized place and all screened in a similar way. This is obviously to help balance the playing field somewhat. Applicants with some relevant social tie to people in the organization, particularly a tie to top executives, are at an advantage because of that reference, and as a result they may know more about the process. The other side to acknowledge is that those in the organization often refer more qualified applicants because of their knowledge of the organization, the position and the applicant. Yet, this in of itself can be counter to expanding diversity if your workforce is not a very diverse group and the social ties or network of workforce members is not very diverse either, which can often be the case. That aside, the rest of the selection process should not favor the referred applicant.
Some of your existing policies and procedures may need to be adjusted to promote a better process for all applicants. In addition, some new policies and procedures may need to be created to encourage diversity in seeking and selecting workers. This can be challenging. Nondiscrimination policies are probably easier to establish, possibly because they represent a base level standard, than it is to establish policies that more actively promote diversity and are also nondiscriminatory. Whatever you can put in place to more actively promote minority inclusion will help institutionalize creating and sustaining a diverse workforce.
Looking at diversity among your ancillary workers and vendors is another significant way of showing that you value diversity. In addition, some of the ancillary workers and even vendors could be a possible pool of future committee members, board members or employees. Particularly among ancillary workers, there is usually no long-term employment type of expectation. This is not to say that some of your ancillary workers don’t expect to be hired year after year. However, it is one place where you may be able to make a number of changes to include more minorities and under-represented groups in your work in a rather short period of time. This will still likely require some significant effort.
You will want to follow similar processes for minority inclusion among your ancillary workers and vendors as you do for your board and committee members, officials and employees. Working off of your rationale for increasing diversity, you will want to have some specific goals and strategies for ancillary workers and vendors. The strategies will probably include expanding the networks and the pool from which you get such workers and vendors. What other sources can you use to get tournament and event workers? Can you encourage some schools to be involved in new ways? For instance, can you set up a rotation system for workers such as ticket takers and media stewards? Maybe such a rotation system for tournament workers includes mixing schools, staff, and student workers to ensure diversity. Trainers, doctors and other medical staff could possibly be rotated among medical facilities for various events. When you work with these medical facilities you can express your desire to include minorities and underrepresented groups at the tournament or other event. You may already consider diversity when assigning officials to tournaments or other events. Consider doing so for scorekeepers, announcers, National Anthem singers and other roles as well. Although it may be nice to use veteran announcers and scorekeepers over the years, this seems like a place where minority inclusion can be increased rather readily.
When hiring vendors for events or even office services, consider diversity among vendors. Since it is against the law for employers to discriminate in their employee hiring practices, it seems reasonable to ask vendors about their policies. Include diversity as one of the factors in making your decisions about vendors. Also consider including some minority or woman owned businesses in your mix of vendors. Larger vendor organizations may be better equipped to handle your larger business needs, or more of them. A minority or woman owned businesses may be smaller, and as smaller businesses, they may not be able to handle some larger business needs. As you look at minority inclusion, consider ways to divide up some of those larger business needs into smaller elements to give smaller diverse businesses more of an opportunity to gain part of your work. You may end up with a service or product you like better than what you had previously.
Diversity can also be considered when planning other events, such as conferences and workshops. Consider diversity in selecting speakers, greeters and other conference workers. You can also consider the diversity of the staff at the venue you select for the event.
These are few examples of ways to increase your diversity among your ancillary workers and vendors. You will likely come up with others. Again, coming up with ways to increase and ensure diversity will require some significant effort. You don’t have to do it all at once. You may want to start with smaller goals in particular areas. As you reach those, you may want to establish goals for other areas. Staying at it and integrating minority inclusion into many elements of your work will result in a diverse workforce that represents your constituents more closely.
Consider including other staff in helping with this process. This may be a task to ask several key people to help you find some resources. This will help get others involved in the diversity and inclusion program, which can also show your commitment to integrate this effort throughout the workplace and workforce.
You may want to start by looking for organizations in your area that are more diverse or represent under-represented groups. Such organizations in your area may be very willing to provide you with information about their diversity and inclusion programs. They may also be willingly to act as a mentor to you in your efforts. You may want to check with organizations like the Urban League (www.nul.org), the NAACP (www.naacp.org), and other organizations representing minorities and women. Some of these organizations have regional, state, or local offices that can assist you. Some of the resources may have lists of member groups that may help you identify a group in your area. School boards and principals associations (NSBA, NASSP) and others may also be able to share information about their diversity work or put you in touch with local organizations that can help you. State or local equal employment opportunity offices may also be a resource. Local colleges may also have some departments, such as cultural study departments, that would be willing to help.
Although they may not be local or able to point you to local resources, other organizations governing education based athletics and performing arts programs could be a great resource. Obviously, these organizations know your work most closely, including your workforce and the areas of opportunity you have to include more minorities and underrepresented groups. Utilize the experience of state and provincial associations that are more diverse to find out about their strategies and programs. The NFHS and the NCAA have resources that can be helpful, this toolkit being one. Also consider suggesting that diversity and minority inclusion be topics at conferences and workshops among these organizations. Again organizations that are more diverse may have much to share to help you in your efforts.
No matter where you are in your minority inclusion and diversity efforts, do reach out to other organizations to gather ideas and resources. There is much to learn in this new and fast developing field.
The short answer is yes; the outcomes should justify work and effort for many reasons. Your answer may depend on your rationale and vision for doing your minority inclusion program and the goals you set.
First, let us acknowledge that a minority inclusion or diversity program will require additional effort and work. As you look at the strategies to recruit and retain minority personnel, it will change the way you do business, and particularly at first, it won’t be simpler and will take extra effort. Over time you will come up with better ways of doing things. Learning from other organizations, particularly similar education-based athletics and performing arts governing organizations, should speed the process. As minority inclusion and diversity becomes more woven into the fabric of your organization, it will become more second nature or automatic. This will take time and significant intentional, deliberate effort to reach this place.
Also remember you don’t have to tackle all areas at once. Of course, it would be wonderful to do so in order to have the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time. Yet, it is also reasonable to set smaller goals in two or three areas or your workforce, such as staff, boards or committees, officials, ancillary workers, or vendors. Then as you proceed toward your goals in those areas, you can expand to other areas.
One area of concern you may have in taking on a minority inclusion program is that it could be a source of office tension or conflict. Although that is possible, whether you are diverse or not, your workplace and work groups will likely have tension and conflict issues. Not to downgrade its significance, but the issues that come up as a result of diversity may replace some other issues or they may not be as much of an issue as you thought. If you create an environment where diversity and cultural differences are discussed openly and often, you may be in a better position to resolve your diversity issues than some other issues that can arise in a work setting. When issues do come up, you will likely want to use strategies that engage your more diverse workforce in helping to relieve the tension or resolve the conflict. Of course, there are times when an organization’s leader needs to step in and make the decision about an issue. However, engaging the workforce in resolving diversity issues once again puts diversity out in the open. It will also help reduce the appearance of the leader “taking sides.”
However, with that said, the outcomes should definitely justify the work and effort. Go back to your rationale and vision for starting this initiative. Ideally, you will update both periodically. This should probably include adding to your rationale for the program as you proceed. When look at your rationale, it should remind you how important your diversity work is. As you review your vision and look at the benefits to people of color or other underrepresented groups for which your organization has provided opportunities, you should see at least some of that vision coming to life. Hopefully, you will see a new infusion of ideas and initiatives and an organization that looks more like the schools you serve and their staff, students, and parents. You will also see a significant contribution to a more integrated society with more equality among races, ethnic groups, and other cultures. That is a lot of hopefulness, but it is vision and effort that give us hope for a better future. This work is needed for that hope. Hopefully, you agree!
Management of diversity ideally should happen with the beginning of your program. Creating a work environment that is supportive of diversity is essential to the success of recruiting and retaining minorities and other under-represented groups. Diversity training should be happening on an ongoing basis from the beginning of your minority inclusion or diversity program. Initial training can coincide with developing or announcing your rationale, vision, and goals for your program.
You will also want to create and maintain an environment where diversity and cultural differences are discussed openly and often. The more this is done, the more diversity and culture can be woven into the fabric of your work. Creating an environment to talk openly about diversity is important to the overall success of your diversity program.
You will also want to find opportunities to learn from other organizations and colleagues about their diversity and inclusion efforts. Some of this may happen informally, but you will probably want to take advantage of formal opportunities as well, such conferences and seminar sessions. The field of diversity and minority inclusion is still a fast-changing field. There will likely be much new learning and information coming to the forefront. New issues will come up and need to be addressed.
Being culturally competent is a process vs. a project. Much like becoming good at sports or performing arts skills, being culturally competent takes much practice and time. We never perfectly master any of these skills! We can just keep on working to become more culturally competent by taking advantage of, and making opportunities to improve.
Training is important piece of developing cultural competence. There are at least two different types of diversity training. One type is more general and focuses on understanding and appreciating differences. Cultures and people as individuals have uniqueness, and because something is different doesn’t mean is it better or worse. It may just be different. It is worth noting that in the world of sports and performing arts, not seeing something as better may be challenging. Since competition is usually part of sport or performing arts there are usually winners and losers in a competition as well as judgments and ratings about performances. In this world it may be difficult not to rate things. This general training in cultural competence explores differences and fosters appreciation for them. Part of the process to help accomplish this in some of these general trainings is examining how your own cultural background and bias may affect your approach certain problems or tasks, and then showing that there may be other helpful approaches. Other cultures may typically have a different approach and get very satisfactory results as well. This type of training can develop a better understanding of how such differences may be helpful in a workgroup.
Other cultural competence training often focuses on developing a better understanding of a specific culture or set of cultures. Most of these trainings provide important background information about some critical elements of the culture and how they affect interactions and work approaches. However, there obviously can be many cultures to learn about. Among Native Americans there are hundreds of tribes or nations. Depending on where you live, getting training on all the different cultures represented may be a daunting task. Also regardless of how much this training you have received, be careful of making assumptions about any particular culture. There are always exceptions and individual differences. Keep a posture of a learner of other cultures. Be open to learning in interactions with someone of a different cultural background. Asking respectfully and listening thoughtfully can be a good practice to follow in encounter with those of another culture, particularly when you are unsure of their customs and norms!
Both of these types of training are very valuable. Develop a diversity training plan that includes both of these types of training and provides the training on a regular basis. As your workforce changes, you will likely need to repeat some training for newer members. Also remember that even repeating some training for the existing workforce can also be beneficial, just as repetition as part of practice is a key ingredient in developing sports and performing arts skills.
First, don’t give up. Seeing the results you hoped for may take more time than you initially thought. Where you are may just be an initial result or stage and not a failure. You have probably established a base and learned a number of lessons that can provide a springboard to the next phase of your inclusion efforts. Try to view your minority inclusion and diversity efforts as a process vs. a project with a particular end point. Remain true to the process. Do periodic evaluations and review the steps you took to create your program. Go back and review your building blocks, starting with your rationale and vision. Do your reasons for developing a more diverse workforce remain relevant? Is the vision still important to the organization? Do they need to be refined? You will likely find that these are still relevant. You likely will find even more reasons for your rationale, and your vision will still be valid or need a slight adjustment.
Also revisit and re-establish your goals and the strategies you selected to reach those goals. These will likely need more adjustment. Maybe your goals and sub-goals, and particularly the timeframes, were a bit ambitious. Or maybe the strategies you selected were out of alignment with your goals. You may need to focus both your goals and strategies. You may need to focus in some specific areas or your workforce. Having a diverse staff is certainly very significant to your diversity and inclusion efforts, but for example, with a smaller number of longer term employees, it may be difficult to create a diverse staff in a short time. You may want to focus on one or two other areas where changes could be made more quickly, such as ancillary workers, boards or committees, officials, or vendors. Then as you proceed toward your goals in those areas, you can expand to other areas. Also remember that gains in some of these areas can be helpful in introducing minorities and under-represented groups to you work, which may cause many to seek roles in other areas for your work such as employment, but also on boards and committees.
If resistant staff are part of your reason for not creating the diverse, inclusive culture outlined in your goals, look at Scenario # 3. You may need to revisit and emphasize to these staff members why diversity in important to your organization and its work. It may be particularly important that it helps the organization relate to and better represent the needs of its clients, schools, their staffs, students and parents. Another may be that diversity improves and enriches the organizational environment. It brings different experiences and different ways of addressing issues. Diversity training or the other suggestions in Scenario #3 may also apply.