In short, relationships.
Most of the focus on diversity and inclusion in the for-profit world is on staff and, to a lesser degree, boards of directors (which, of course, only some for-profit companies have).
The association operating environment is much more multi-layered.
Of course, we also have staff teams and boards of directors. But associations have very different relationships with our boards than for-profit companies do. Although our members are also our customers, the membership relationship is vastly more complex than the consumer relationship. We also have relationships with – and responsibilities to – the professions and industries we serve for which there is no parallel in the for-profit world.
The case studies in Include Is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion clearly illustrate the challenges inherent in and opportunities granted by our unique operating environment:
- The Association for Women in Science has successfully navigated the transition from a largely homogenous board of directors to one that is truly inclusive, while also avoiding the trap of tokenism.
- The Entomological Society of America has created a strong code of conduct for their events that not only aims to reduce instances of harassment at events but also provides a concrete action plan for dealing with them appropriately when they do occur.
- The Geological Society of America has responded creatively to the dual imperatives to recruit more people into the field and to increase the diversity of those recruits.
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