Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Having the opportunity to meet and learn from hundreds of other association officers at this year’s virtual ELS was an incredible experience. At the forefront of all conversations on how we can best improve our associations was definitely the idea of how we can make DECA more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
While I know many people see DECA as an organization without any large disparities, the fact is, creating a culture where all people feel welcome is a collaborative effort and starts with our members and advisors. The best way to begin is always defining what we actually mean by this, without just spouting a few buzzwords minus actual action.
Diversity is more than just the race and ethnicity of a group, nor does it refer to a singular person. It speaks moreseo on the idea of accepting and acknowledging differences within the members of our organization and valuing how they interact. These differences can include race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and so much more that can’t be seen just by looking at someone.
Equity builds off of the idea that everyone is different, and regardless of factors that differentiate them, how can we give everyone equal access to resources and opportunities in DECA? Something similar to leveling the playing field for all of us.
Finally, Inclusion refers to the sense of belonging and community members have within our organization. Sometimes, despite our best efforts with making our program diverse and equitable, it doesn’t mean everyone will feel a sense of belonging/community.
Now that we understand some of the terminology, how does one fix it? Truthfully much of the responsibility begins with chapter officers and advisors, before our members can step up. Beginning with recruitment and who is represented on an official level within your chapters, having members with diverse backgrounds can make a team much more creative and able to come up with ideas that can benefit all members rather than a small group of similar individuals representing everyone. Establishing equitable programs such as sharing resources amongst members and ensuring that everyone has access to professional outfits before competitions is just one way to combat some of the glaring inequalities that are unavoidable in a program designed for business.
Another important aspect is to include new members and foster a sense of community. By allowing everyone to contribute and work towards a common goal, it can make others more comfortable with being in DECA and encourage those who aren’t necessarily sure they want to join, to take the leap and become a member.
Being a leader means recognizing differences in individuals and inequities in our program, while doing the best to alleviate them for all of our members. In fact, my own experiences in DECA have not always been pleasant, although they are the vast majority, in a few instances I have felt alienated or singled out because of my race. I have met and talked to members who have chapters without resources nor the capability to drive and stay the night at our state conferences. Recognizing that we all have the power to fix these issues is the first step we can take to better ourselves and Oklahoma DECA as a whole.