A Hard Look in the Mirror: When It Doesn’t Reflect the Diversity You Seek

A Hard Look in the Mirror: When It Doesn’t Reflect the Diversity You Seek

May 8, 2017 | Kathy Park


For mission-driven organizations, a mission statement represents the idealized “self.” It’s the ultimate statement about what we want to be and do in the world.

As CEO of NCCD, it is my job to hold up the mirror and discern how closely the reflected image resembles where we want to be. Not surprisingly, many organizations do not live up to their stated values and aspirations for creating a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. When I held up the organization’s mirror, I grappled with the honest reality that NCCD could, and should, do better.

Thinking about where we want to be as an organization, I had to acknowledge that my personal values regarding diversity and inclusion were not yet contributing to organizational betterment. Simply holding diversity and inclusion as values, on their own, is an inert activity. It can be very difficult to move from thinking to doing—especially with no assurance about the outcome—but I wanted us to move from aspiration to action. To create momentum, we needed to identify clear goals and be frank about the risks of doing nothing.

As an organization whose mission is to promote just and equitable social systems for individuals, families, and communities, the value of internal diversity and inclusion is evident. Given the racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation disparities among the populations served by social service systems, it is critically important to have a representatively diverse workforce. And as a data-driven organization, I knew we could learn from the body of research that shows how diversity within organizations spurs innovation and drives productivity.

With all this in mind, I determined that NCCD needs to begin these efforts by prioritizing recruiting and retaining people of color more effectively. In addition, we need to increase our institutional knowledge and understanding of how different aspects of diversity affect our capacity to work well with our clients, and how diversity can increase the quality and productivity of our working relationships with one another.

Societal and structural racism, sexism, and homophobia have created barriers to recruiting diverse talent and can be hard to change. Overcoming such entrenched bias takes time, patience, and intention. As our organization contributes to that change, we also are focusing on internal structures that are quicker to shift.

After many months of reflecting on how to take the values of internal diversity and inclusion and turn them into action, I’m proud and excited to announce NCCD’s launch of an institutional Diversity and Inclusion Initiative.

The first order of business was to create a staff-driven Diversity & Inclusion Committee. This committee works with NCCD leadership to examine existing policies and practices through an equity lens. It has already begun to make recommendations for reducing and eliminating unintended barriers to more successful staff recruitment, onboarding, and retention. The committee also develops formal and informal learning opportunities to deepen our individual and collective capacities for working more effectively across differences, both in our work with clients and with one another. To view the charter for NCCD’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, click here.

Also, we are developing an internship program in partnership with the local Boys and Girls Club. Open to both high school and college students, this internship program aims to expand the longer-term pipeline of diverse talent and offer a broader range of experiences for young people of color.

As this work evolves, we will engage in continuous feedback and evaluation of the effectiveness and impact of our efforts. During this blog series, you will hear from various members of our Diversity & Inclusion Committee about the perspectives, experiences, and motivations they bring to this work of making NCCD the very best it can be.