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Moving toward multiculturalism.

"Truly diversifying," says Marybeth Bernhardt Fidler, immediate past executive director of the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc., New York City, "means creating a culture within your organization that is friendly to all subcultures represented within the group--it is much more than simply not discriminating."

Fidler's declaration provides the watch-words for a nation of associations coming to grips with multicultural literacy and multicultural memberships. And associations have plenty of reason to invite diverse members and form effective diversification strategies. Not the least is the potential membership pool. People of color, women, people with differing abilities, and other "nontraditional" groups will comprise approximately 70 percent of the U.S. work force by the turn of the century, predicts the Hudson Institute study Workforce 2000.

"If your members are drawn from an increasingly diverse society, you need to know that society's needs in order to gain members and retain them," says Denise Cavanaugh, a principal in the organizational consulting firm Cavanaugh, Hagan & Pierson, Inc., Washington, D.C.

In addition, members need programs to help them better assist their increasingly diverse clients and better manage their more diverse staffs.

For some associations, diversity is a longstanding cause. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Rockville, Maryland, for example, made early multicultural strides in the late 1960s, as an outgrowth of the civil rights movement, according to Lorraine Cole, director of ASHA's office of minority concerns. A group of members known as the black caucus drove ASHA's early efforts to prevent discrimination in its professions.

The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. acted swiftly, remembers Fidler, when one courageous member took a stand. In 1977, says Fidler, an annual meeting delegate--a woman of color--questioned AJLI's declared mission: to represent and reflect the communities in which it had chapters. The delegate said she found this difficult to believe because of the lack of diversity within these chapters and within AJLI's leadership.

"The immediate effect was a reaching-out statement adopted by our board and included in all our literature and publications," explains Fidler. "And after that we began to organize interested parties to create a long-term strategy."

True multiculturalism

Today most associations focusing on diversity are looking beyond preventing discrimination. "What we're working toward is a truly multicultural organization," declares Fidler, "and that means multicultural literacy.... It means being aware of the history, values, and practices that are usual within other cultures and being able to communicate your awareness without offending people from those other cultures. That's multicultural literacy."

According to Fidler, the groups AJLI concentrates on are racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. In 1990 the association formalized a diversity program, and developing a multicultural leadership became one of four organizational goals in the strategic plan.

Lorraine Cole notes that ASHA's original concentration on racial discrimination has evolved into a concern for a number of different groups. "When you define minority too broadly," explains Cole, "you run the risk of diluting your program and rendering it less effective in general, so it makes little impact for any group. When we redirected our focus in 1990, we defined minority as those groups federally designated as such--black, Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian. It's not that we pay less attention to other people, but our office of minority concerns works with the federally designated groups."

ASHA's 1991 Multicultural Action Agenda 2000 updates and advances goals originally established by its black caucus in 1968. The plan calls for specific progress toward multiculturalism in a wide range of association activities, including membership, leadership involvement, national office structure and staffing, educational and research programs, legislative activities, and public image. It is administered by ASHA's committee on the status of racial minorities, on which Cole serves as an ex-officio member.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Alexandria, Virginia, uses a definition of minorities that is similar to ASHA's, according to Johnette L. Meadows, director of APTA's department of minority affairs. "We do not have programs for women or the physically challenged currently; however we hope to include these groups as we go along. Right now we see few students from racial and ethnic minorities going into physical therapy. Out of 4,000 1990 physical therapy graduates, only about 300 were minorities."

APTA's board of directors adopted a diversity strategy in 1983 and revised it in 1990. Like ASHA's program, it is overseen by a committee, the council on minority affairs. Its goals include promoting diversity among the membership but concentrate on long-term progress like increasing the proportion of minority students in physical therapy training programs, increasing the number of minority faculty teaching and performing research, and increasing publicity about physical therapy programs so that more minority students in junior high schools and high schools will be likely to select the field.

Elizabeth Allan, CAE, senior vice president of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), San Francisco, notes that her organization designates as minorities the Inuit peoples (Eskimos) and Pacific Islanders as well as the federally designated groups.

"We did a survey of our members in these groups in 1987," relates Allan, "and they told us the biggest barriers they faced were in being hired and promoted. Some people of color told us they had indeed been hired but specifically to work with minority groups rather than general audiences. And some students told us they had been discouraged from going into journalism or communication because they would supposedly not advance as quickly, being people of color."

Like many other associations with formal diversification plans, IABC has established a group to oversee its plan's progress. IABC's multicultural communicators committee pursues such goals as developing an active support network for multicultural communicators, eliminating barriers to hiring and promoting people of color within the communication profession, and helping IABC members learn to communicate more effectively with diverse audiences.

Recruiting and mentoring

Efforts to attract diverse members are necessarily focused on the future. ASHA, for one, is aggressively promoting its professions to minority students. The association has helped create study units on communication disorders and speech and hearing disorder experiment ideas for science fair competitions. These are distributed to teachers as a way to focus students' attention on the communication disorders field early.

"The mentoring program we are developing, |Enhance,' will also concentrate on younger students," explains Cole. "More than half of its volunteers will be minority members of ASHA, and they will actively recruit minority students into the field." ASHA's action agenda also calls for the endowment to its scholarship fund for minority students to increase to $100,000 by 1995.

Anne Bryant, executive director of the American Association of University Women, Washington, D.C., explains that AAUW has made minority women a focal point in its scholarship program. "In 1991, 30 percent of our American Fellowships Award recipients were women of color, and in terms of our grants to selected traditional professions such as law, medicine, and finance, we're focusing solely on minority groups."

APTA's Meadows says, "We get lists of minority students interested in physical therapy from schools and match these students with practicing therapists in their areas. It's working well so far; students and members enjoy the experience, and the program increases the visibility of physical therapy among minority groups. It begins to build confidence in these students that they can be good therapists and association leaders, too, so it gets at the roots of the diversity problem."

APTA also encourages members to speak at high schools as a way to make the profession more visible to all young people--particularly minority students. And APTA's department of minority affairs holds sessions for educators at the collegiate level, focusing on how faculty members can recruit and support future therapists of many cultures.

At IABC, Allan says volunteers run a mentoring subcommittee within its multi-cultural communicators committee. In addition, IABC also encourages informal career networking through its committee. The group meets formally once each year and conducts conference calls every two months. Each occasion provides committee members the chance to offer each other counsel and contacts.

"We tried to establish a job referral service for diverse groups at the national level," adds Allan, "but we've found that it doesn't function as well as we'd hoped, so we're trying to reestablish it at the district level, where people will be closer to the jobs to which they are being referred."

Active and involved

As IABC's Allan declares, "The key to multiculturalism is invitation. Making invitations to join, to speak, and to lead is how you bring people of color into your group and leadership."

Another IABC initiative is a speakers bureau of diverse members. "We asked existing multicultural communicators committee members, board members, and other leads, |Whom do you know who is a good speaker and who is knowledgeable on a certain topic?'" explains Allan. "We also have a bank of people who are not people of color but who speak on the diversity issue." These speakers are available for national, regional, and district IABC meetings.

Similarly, the American Physical Therapy Association's Meadows has created a directory of culturally diverse members who would like to serve as speakers and association committee members. "I send the directory to our board, committees, and meeting planners, so they know who wants to be involved," says Meadows. The directory, as well as a guide designed to identify appropriate diverse therapists for research work, is based on surveys Meadows and her staff routinely conduct and tabulate.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is compiling a similar data base of minority members, categorized by expertise. "We're doing the same thing for people who want to serve on ASHA committees," notes Cole. "We're currently looking at ways to track committee applications to make certain all applicants, regardless of color, are considered within three years."

ASHA also involves minority members in leadership through events like its 1990 Emerging Leaders Conference, to which attendees were elected by state chapters. "We've made sure that a strong number of minority members were included in this event," says Cole. And as part of its annual meeting, ASHA runs a leadership seminar focused specifically on diverse people. Proceedings from this seminar are mailed to every ASHA member.

Indeed, publications are a major means of spreading a philosophy of multiculturalism. Bryant notes that the American Association of University Women's national magazine AAUW Outlook urges those not in the proverbial leadership loop to apply for committee and board positions. "Many diverse members may be new to us, but they've had valuable leadership experience in other groups," she contends.

Like IABC's Allan, Bryant believes repeated discussion of multicultural goals brings diverse members into the association's core. "If you talk about your desires to include diverse groups in your leadership structure long enough and thoroughly enough, they will respond."

Grass-roots goals

Making efforts to diversify only from the national level is not enough, says AAUW's Bryant. "No one has the ability to control or dictate change. You have to manage it," she suggests. "The key then is talking with members at all levels and helping them to see that they need to become familiar with traits of other cultures before they can successfully recruit diverse members."

AAUW insists that its local chapters work with other, more diverse organizations--local Girl Scouts chapters, local YWCAs, minority sororities, and so forth--before they attempt to form recruitment programs for themselves. The first step in this process occurs when the chapter gains awareness of the need to be more diverse.

"We have 1,800 branches of AAUW that may not all be as conscious of the need to reach out as the national chapter is," explains Bryant. "So we've instituted a program called |Leaders on Loan' to show local chapters how aggressive we are being about it, bringing multiculturalism closer to home."

Loaned leaders are 14 volunteers and six AAUW staff members trained to conduct diversity awareness sessions and maintain contact with chapters that have held such sessions. Pairs of these leaders are sent out to individual chapters that have requested education on multiculturalism. If a chapter requests assistance on recruiting a particular minority group, the two team members will likely be members of that group.

Leaders on Loan sessions are based on training AAUW received from the National Coalition Building Institute, Arlington, Massachusetts. "They emphasize that we've all been hurt by some past experiences with other people. Some such experiences may have produced prejudices in us, but prejudice it can be enjoyable," notes Bryant. Leaders on Loan is also a roving data base service: Loaned leaders are sworn to help AAUW identify diverse members who would make good speakers and leaders.

The Junior League's Fidler explains that her organization promotes multiculturalism at the state and local levels through its multicultural consultants, a group of 15-20 league members who, like AAUW's loaned leaders, are trained to work on awareness and diversification goals with individual leagues. Support team members visit individual leagues once or twice and then communicate long distance over a period of months and even years. Says Fidler, "This is how we share our goals for multiculturalism with them, and how they come to adopt them as their own as well."

Strategic thinking

Executives immersed in multicultural activities don't always agree on the best means of planning and administering diversity efforts. IABC's Allan, for one, says staff should do the work. "We feel that by having our training done from the inside, we are stressing a change at the root of the organization rather than grafting on a |limb' of diversity."

Fidler thinks differently. "Diversification work is complex and sensitive," she says. "It is unlikely that an organization has within its staff the skill and awareness to start and maintain a program that will really work. We worked with one consultant for six years, and we've added others because the issues become more complex and personal, and we've had to specialize in our approach to handling them."

Whatever the approach, "multiculturalism is a long-term effort," states consultant Cavanaugh. "It's wrong to raise people's expectations and then not live up to them. That means a strategic plan for diversification."

Cavanaugh notes that most often she is called in to associations and other businesses to give one-time diversity awareness sessions. What organizations really need to tackle the issues, she says, is a staff task force that works for a period of months to assess the association's present culture and recommend methods and projects that could help make that culture more inclusive.

"You have to get top-level involvement to get diversification policies to work," says Cavanaugh, "but a task force should be a diagonal cross section of staff: a mixture of people from different job functions and levels as well as gender and race." This group looks at how evaluations are conducted and how managers and staff interact, for example. Then they recommend alternative policies in such job situations, taking into account how people from diverse cultures might feel most comfortable.

Cavanaugh realizes a full-scale effort to become multicultural can cost an organization plenty. "I support associations that try to pull a plan together for themselves, without a consultant," she adds. "Or you can use a consultant as a coach, to drop in and review the progress of a plan every now and then. You don't have to have an expert around all the time. But not having the financial resources [for diversification] is simply not an excuse anymore."

Not a hindrance

Neither is the often-changing nature of associations' volunteer leadership an excuse not to undertake diversity efforts, according to diversification strategists.

"Making both older leaders and those moving in feel comfortable is the key to a successful diversity effort," says Phyllis Haeger, president of the association management firm P.M. Haeger & Associates, Inc., Chicago. "Changes that make both groups work well together will take time and reinforcement, and staff should be aware of that.

"Reeducating incoming board and committee members is a fact of life," she adds. "The less you work with your chapters and so forth as new leaders are moving up, the more you have to reeducate association leaders as they come on board. I try to approach reeducation from the business side first, so people see how diversification will actually aid the industry or profession they represent--that is, the bottom line. Then I blend in the human side of it--how a human group needs human diversity to be complete."

Cole notes that ASHA's action agenda is part of the association's strategic plan. Its policies are inherent in board members' jobs, so ASHA knows new board members are aware of responsibilities for multicultural goals. "Occasionally it is still necessary to educate them about the importance of having an office of minority affairs and so forth, however," says Cole, "so I'm always a part of their orientation process."

IABC's Allan says the people who join the association and become its leaders "know we need to understand our audiences, so we do not need to reacquaint them with the issue.

"But what we do need to keep doing is providing action on diversity for them to work and vote on," she continues. "They will become complacent otherwise. As we globalize and as demographics change, no company in communication is going to do well unless it can communicate with people from many cultures. Our leaders know that at association functions, they have a nonthreatening, noncompetitive environment in which to become multiculturally literate. This is important for an association to provide for everyone--leaders and members."

"Certainly there are pitfalls to changes in leadership," sums up Fidler. "For example, you may have a particular board that does not focus on the diversity issue as much during their tenure. But if your leaders come up through the ranks well aware of the goals involved, their high turnover level can actually enhance the process of multiculturalism because you're not locked into one paradigm--one CEO's idea of diversity--as corporations might be."

ASAE's Diversity Committee

The ASAE Committee on Diversity in Association Management is actively promoting multiculturalism among associations. The committee's charge:

"Gather information on the demographics, the status, and the attitudes of women, diverse group, senior citizen, and disabled executives involved in association management. Develop and implement recommendations on making ASAE's leadership and membership more representative of diverse groups. Develop and implement recommendations on assisting members to understand the value of and develop more diverse work forces and memberships within their own associations."

To those ends, the committee is

* initiating sensitivity training efforts, such as the one it participated in with the ASAE Executive Committee and executive-level staff; * presenting educational programming at ASAE meetings; * helping ensure more diverse representation on ASAE committees and in leadership positions; * developing information about model association diversity programs, to be disseminated through publications and educational programs; * collecting benchmark data about members' race and ethnic identification; * helping plan and develop future articles in Association Management; * beginning to actively solicit diverse executives for membership in ASAE; and * starting liaison efforts with internal groups (such as ASAE Fellows and committees) and external groups (such as the ASAE Allied Societies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce).

For more information, contact Debra Sher, vice president of member services, at (202) 626-2705.

The Staff Angle

While associations are awakening to the need for multicultural efforts within their memberships, diversification programs for association staff remain more rare.

"Associations traditionally pay attention to what members need first," offers Denise Cavanaugh, a principal in Cavanaugh, Hagan & Pierson, Inc., organizational consultants, Washington, D.C. "I find staff rather sensitive to this discrepancy, however--especially middle-level staff.

"Another reason for the lack of staff programs is the expense. Many consultants won't work with you unless they get a full commitment--longer seminars and a full strategic plan to the tune of many thousands of dollars."

Jeanne Nutter, director of training and development at the Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. (AJLI), New York City, explains that her group has had an informal staff diversity commitment for years, but the plan has not been institutionalized. "We try to use staff recruitment, retention, and advancement as a model for the association as a whole," says Nutter, "because it's tough to ask [members] to do something like diversification if you're not doing it.

"Our strategy was the result of a consensus among upper-level staff that multiculturalism was an important issue. All of our directors agreed to recruit staff from among diverse groups for their departments."

Marybeth Bernhardt Fidler, immediate past executive director at AJLI, notes that the association strives not only to recruit minority staff but to advance them. "Of our nine senior-level staff, two are people of color--both Afro-Americans. We make the effort to find highly qualified minority candidates, and frankly we haven't found that difficult to do."

Nutter explains that AJLI's employment notices emphasize a desire to employ people of color. "We also do informal recruiting," she adds. "We'll ask professionals from other, similar organizations for that kind of information. And when we network within our own fields we ask peers whom they know."

Nutter is especially proud of a program begun this year by two younger staff members. The two staffers, both women of color, approached AJLI's administration with an idea for a seminar on black culture to celebrate Black History Month in February. "They came up with a wonderful set of four sessions that were packed every day," says Nutter, "and as a result we have set up an in-house group that will explore other cultures as well and will be open to all staff. There's an example of a grass-roots effort becoming institutionalized. Change of this nature is often from the bottom up, and you need to be open to it."

At the Association of American Railroads (AAR), Washington, D.C., Assistant Vice President and Director of Personnel Penny L. Prue and Manager of Personnel Services Brenda M. Moore work together to administer the organization's formal staff diversity plan.

"Our corporate goal is to achieve a work force that's representative of the communities we are located in," says Prue. With a staff of 750 and offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Pueblo, Colorado, AAR finds it has a variety of considerations.

"Each year we examine the population statistics in our office areas through local census bureaus. Then we try to hire according to those statistics," explains Prue. "When we see a problem, we set a goal for that year for hiring from underrepresented groups.

"We expand our use of referral sources that usually send us minority and female candidates. We've identified organizations that provide files on senior management candidates, and we look for minority groups there. The American Economic Association, Nashville, for example, maintains a data base of people whose backgrounds are in economics."

When it identifies a group that is underrepresented on staff, AAR also commits more dollars to running advertisements in national newspapers and other periodicals and contacting organizations with resume banks. One source in Boston is the Public Service Minority Resume Bank, part of a non-profit employment matching service called ACCESS. Recently compiled, the minority data base is expected to grow to more than 50,000 resumes, according to director Sung Robbins. Nonprofits in search of minority candidates in a number of job categories may tap into the data base or request a listing of appropriate candidates.

Once individuals from minority groups are employed at AAR, the association attempts to help them move up by offering scholarships for continuing education as well as in-house managerial training courses that address diversification concerns. "We've designed our programs here at AAR," says Prue. "That way we know they work specifically for us."

Implementing a Diversity Program

More than time, it takes perseverance; more than good intentions, it takes commitment.

So how do you begin? I don't have a formula for a model program, but based on my experience on ASAE's Diversity Committee and at the Public Relations Society of America, Inc. (PRSA), New York City, I can suggest some basic steps essential to starting any diversity program.

1. Make a formal commitment to the principles of equal rights and respect for the worth and dignity of all individuals. Associations--starting with the leadership--may make this commitment through their mission statements and strategic plans and in their bylaws and policies.

These formally adopted values are regularly communicated to the membership and to other appropriate audiences--for instance, to your prospective members or potential users of your services or products. At PRSA we communicate the commitment through articles in our newsletters and monthly journal as well as in forums of discussion among our chapters, sections, and student society.

2. Each year renew the commitment. Like any priority, diversity programs require a renewal of commitment by the association leadership. This reaffirmation can be built into the strategic planning process, for example, by asking each new committee chairperson to articulate the commitment in the process of setting the upcoming year's goals.

3. Appoint a diversity task force. The task force includes people of diverse groups, and it assesses the needs of these groups within your association and the trade or profession it represents.

This assessment involves creating a baseline of data and asking sometimes tough-to-explore questions: Does the association membership mirror the diversity of the general population? If not, why not?

What are the special needs and difficulties experienced by minority members within the association and in their workplaces? Are diverse groups welcome at your convention? Has your organization learned to be inclusive? Does it, for instance, accommodate peoples' different uses of language and different value systems?

Are minority students preparing for careers in the field represented by the association? If not, what new outreaches can you create to reach these students?

You gather these kinds of baseline data in order to assess what you need to do to achieve your goals. At ASAE, the Diversity Committee initiated a demographic scan of its members and surveyed association work forces not a part of ASAE's membership.

Regardless of what the assessment reveals, the process heightens awareness to the issue. The reaction from your members may at times be defensive in explaining why a program or section does not reflect the diversity of the population in which it's operating. If that happens, explore the reasons for the defensiveness, the "why nots," because therein may lie the seeds of change.

4. Draft an action plan. The action plan is the logical outcome of the task force's efforts. It recommends steps the association can take to enhance the diverse representation within its ranks.

Those steps can take many forms: Create lists of potential members by scouring the universe of prospects, using your chapters or allied societies as resources. Contact these people, inviting them to special sessions or events you think they would find valuable.

The action plan also examines what can be done to encourage young people to consider careers covered by your association. Send association spokespersons to high schools to talk about your association's trade or profession as a career option. At PRSA we have 173 student chapters representing more than 6,000 students, and we encourage diversity within that structure.

And if young people do enter the field, the plan suggests ways in which they can advance and ways in which they can be active in and become part of the leadership of your association. PRSA has a job bank to help students entering the profession and scholarships for minority students.

5. Provide educational sessions for your members on the importance of diversity. Such education helps your members help the people they hire. The offerings might include training on how to diversify your work force; if your work force is already diversified, training on how to interrelate within that diversity can be useful. At ASAE the executive committee of the Board of Directors and upper-level management participated in a day-long training and consciousness-raising session in issues of diversity in the workplace and among association memberships.

6. Tap available resources to design and implement diversity programs.

* Contact INROADS, a national internship program for minority students, headquartered in St. Louis.

* Network with people in associations that have model diversity programs. For starters, you could contact Debra Sher, ASAE's vice president of member services and staff liaison to the Diversity Committee; Debra has begun to keep a list of associations with active programs and with the committee's input is creating a clearinghouse for ideas and networking. The committee welcomes examples of excellent diversity programs and information about additional resources. Once you've made a few contacts, your network grows rapidly.

* Read all about the topic. You can hardly pick up a magazine today without the topic being featured. You might be interested in PRSA's issue paper entitled "Multicultural Diversity: The Communications Challenge of the 1990s," published by PRSA's Public Policy Committee.

* Talk with private organizations and consultants that specialize in diversity issues. Again, you could write or call Debra Sher at ASAE; Debra is compiling a list of such contacts as she hears about them from other association executives.

7. Remember that diversity programs are essentially human relations programs. To succeed they require one-on-one contact and nurturing. Like most effective membership recruitment efforts, it takes repeatedly reaching out to deliver your message: "You'll get a lot out of this organization, and we want your involvement and contribution."

But the barrier to joining a group is often the perception that one is not welcome. To better help newcomers overcome that barrier, make repeated contacts with them, befriend the people you wish to involve--in short, embody your organization's philosophical commitment to diversity.

Amy V. Roberts is a former associate editor of Association Management.

Elizabeth Ann Kovacs, CAE, is executive vice president, Public Relations Society of America, Inc., New York City, and chair of ASAE's Diversity Committee.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:cultural diversification in associations; includes related articles
Author:Kovacs, Elizabeth Ann
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Dec 1, 1991
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