Each association’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey is unique, and the path is often met with circumstances and challenges; it’s a topic that is charged with emotions, personal experiences, and individual values and beliefs. In 2021, Smithbucklin developed a suite of diversity, equity, and inclusion journey map resources to support DEI-related strategies, initiatives, and conversations amongst its associations. Implementing the journey mapping process can help an organization identify and advance its DEI objectives and move from strategy and planning to actual practice.
The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC), a Smithbucklin association management client, began its justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (J.E.D.I.) journey in 2006.
“In the past, NSGC was leveraging volunteer task forces to identify, define, and take action on J.E.D.I. initiatives. The process wasn’t moving as fast as we would’ve hoped,” said Meghan Carey, CAE, executive director for NSGC. “We realized we aren’t experts on this topic and we needed experts to help not only the association, but also the genetic counseling profession, move our J.E.D.I. initiatives forward.”
As part of its 2019 strategic plan, NSGC hired a firm specializing in DEI to conduct an assessment. It identified 48 different action items, prioritized by importance and urgency.
“The NSGC membership is primarily 95 percent white and female, and 75 percent are under the age of 40. The demographics of the organization are not reflective of the diversity of their patient population, nor the U.S. population,” explains Carey. “The assessment uncovered that many genetic counselors who are not in the majority are having a non-inclusive experience in their training and practice. It’s a huge culture issue that NSGC wants to address as part of its mission to ensure availability of quality genetic services in health care.”
Following the assessment, NSGC leveraged a journey map to bring consensus amongst NSGC leadership about where the organization is currently in regards to its J.E.D.I. initiatives and where it wanted to go. The process was led by Robin Rone, Smithbucklin’s Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
“DEI means different things to different people. The journey map can help discuss and set a common ground for any organization. And it needs to be part of your organization’s DNA,” states Rone. “It’s not just about the association; it’s also about moving the needle within your industry, profession, and even your staff. It is truly a journey.”
As a result of their DEI assessment and journey mapping process, NSGC was able to outline J.E.D.I. initiatives within their strategic plan for the next three years, including:
- Hiring a J.E.D.I. manager to support development of an action plan, strategy, and implementation, as well as provide oversight of the J.E.D.I. committee and other J.E.D.I. initiatives throughout the organization
- Implementing changes at NSGC events, such as live captioning of all sessions, providing guidelines around inclusive language for presenters, and reserving a block of hotel rooms closest to the convention center for attendees with mobility limitations
- Continuing to develop and release position statements as part of the organization’s advocacy activities
- Re-evaluating the volunteer leadership selection process
“The journey map tool is intended to be reviewed and updated on a rolling basis. It’s important to stay aligned on what is achievable,” says Rone.
Carey added, “NSGC is starting with promoting the active participation and leadership of people with diverse identities, perspectives and backgrounds within our own organization and then extending into the larger healthcare system. We seek to empower our members to advocate for themselves, each other, and the diverse population of patients genetic counselors strive to serve.”
Whether you have yet to take your first step, or have been walking in circles, we can help map out your association’s DEI journey from here. Contact us to learn more about Smithbucklin’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and the resources we provide our association management client organizations.
Ande Leslie is in Marketing & Communication Services at Smithbucklin.