It’s rare that I do two AAC posts in one week, but the discussion that has developed since Jeffrey Cufaude’s post Getting More Players on the All-Star Team has struck a chord with me. It’s a subject I know all too well and wanted to offer a slightly different perspective on it.
I am a 37 year-old african-american female association lobbyist. Now, name five of your colleagues who fall into this same category. Even better, name five of your colleagues of the same age, race and gender who do education or meeting planning or information technology. Challenging right? Dare I say, impossible? Obviously, we have colleagues who are my age, race, and gender who work for associations. But you don’t see many of them. And sadly, neither do I.
There are many reasons why we’re not that visible. Some of us choose not to be. Some of us are just trying to keep our heads afloat in the office. Some of us have priorities outside the association community. But what about those of us who want to make an impact? Is it a matter of waiting for an opportunity to come along or creating one for ourselves?
The one reason I constantly talk about DELP is because, quite frankly, very few people do. This program serves as a training ground for developing today’s association leaders. DELP scholars represent different races, ethnicities, ages, physical abilities, sexual orientation, gender, and geographical areas. We serve on boards and committees. We’re mid and senior level professionals. A few are executive directors. Many have earned the CAE. In fact, in my class of 2008-2009, 7 of the 10 scholars are CAEs. A number of DELP scholars have been recognized by their local associations for their leadership. In most cases, serving as the first minority to gain such recognition.
And yet, for all of that success, no one knows who the hell we are.
It doesn’t matter why that is. What matters is how do we increase the visibility of DELP scholars? Making progress in addressing issues of diversity and inclusion is a two-way street. It’s great to be asked to be part of a superstar panel, but what if that opportunity doesn’t exists? What am I going to do to create the opportunity if one isn’t offered to me? As DELP scholars, we have been challenged to put ourselves out there. To let people know we are here and ready to work even if it’s not always desirable. Is DELP the end-all, be-all to diversity and inclusion? Absolutely not. We only represent a tiny segment of a small, but growing population of association professionals. However, you’re not going to find a better pool of thought leaders than our little family.
Today I challenge my association colleagues and DELP scholars to look at your network and ask yourself, “Is this the extent of my all-star team?” We can all benefit by differences in thought and culture. It’s time we all expand our universe.