A good first step toward equity and inclusion – find your person

As I’ve mentioned here before, we’re working very hard at all levels of JFS to bring more equity and inclusion to what we do, both internally and externally.

We have a core group of employees working with local equity consulting group Intersections to develop a DEI improvement plan for communication, equitable policies, building trust and developing emerging leaders. Our book club reads about race and equity. In Children’s Services, new employees take classes to recognize how privilege and bias can affect their decisions. 

But one of the best things about this work is watching solutions develop organically. I’d like to share about a relationship between two employees who saw their differences as positives. They bonded over a shared desire to learn about each other’s upbringings and to create a safe space for asking difficult questions without judgment.

Grace is White, a first-generation college graduate who was raised by a single mother. She’s an introvert. Monique is Black, a second-generation college graduate who grew up in a two-parent household. She’s an extrovert who loves being around people; talking to everyone comes naturally to her.

Now, nine years into the relationship, they’ve been promoted to leadership positions and continue their deep discussions on improving our treatment and understanding of the families we serve. Sharing their history influences practice and the culture around them.

They host a new-hire training segment about understanding privilege and the many ways it can come up in our work. Life experiences can give someone a different view of the world than, say, a client who lacks appropriate support, cannot find work or lacks stable housing. They stress that the key is acknowledging one’s privilege as they work with families of different cultures and backgrounds.

As we all continue to look for ways to be more equitable and inclusive, a good first step is exactly what Monique and Grace did. Find that person with whom you feel safe enough to ask questions about race, equity and inclusion. Because once we understand, we can do better. 

by Jane Prendergast

Filed Under: From the Director, News