At its annual meeting last week, ASAE and The Center for Association Leadership put some action behind the 2008 diversity initiative announced at last year’s conference by opening the meeting with a panel of diversity experts. Led by journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts, the panel discussion also was interspersed with video clips of ASAE and The Center minority-group members talking about the challenges they face by not being in the mainstream of American culture.
The panel began by addressing the increasingly pressing need to be inclusive of diverse people, who come from a demographic profile that is increasingly non-Caucasian, and from an upcoming generation that, according to panelist Nadira Hira, will demand it. Hira is a general assignment writer for Fortune magazine who specializes in writing about Generation Y. Many of the panelists focused on why diversity makes good business sense for associations. As Steve Roberts said, “It’s not a question of fairness or quotas—it’s about doing our job better. [The problems come when] people feel pushed into [diversity initiatives] instead of doing it because of self-interest.”
The business benefits of increasing diversity include acquiring and retaining minority members, and building brand equity within diverse communities. Although, said Steve Hanamura, president of Hanamura Consulting, “Before we even get to the business argument, we have to get to human respect. You have to see us.” This is a point Patti Digh, co-founder of The Circle Project, expanded on, saying that its important to have diverse people in on decision-making and to see how the organizational structure and culture itself may or may not be welcoming to minorities. “We are looking at this from a superficial level,” she said, later adding that people need to remember that “diversity is not a problem to be fixed.”
The next piece of ASAE and The Center’s diversity initiative will come on December 11–12 in Baltimore when the organization will hold a Diversity Summit, said ASAE president and CEO John Graham, at a press conference. The organization also earlier this year hired Trish Kerlé to be its director of diversity and inclusion, and has expanded its assistance to Diversity Executive Leadership Program recipients to include mentoring and coaching, Graham said. Global Hyatt Corp. has provided ASAE and The Center with a $500,000 grant to support its diversity initiative activities.