Women-Only Fitness is a culturally appropriate fitness class tailored to meet the needs of our communities. Specifically, the Somali women of Tukwila would not otherwise have a safe and comfortable space to exercise and work out together. It started as a fitness class but has become a community.
How is inclusion practiced?
I came across this wonderful article recently, “All Voices on Deck: How Inclusiveness Can Help Define Your Leadership Style” by Rebecca Shambaugh. I highly suggest every person read it. Especially those who want to be leaders practicing inclusion.
Inclusion has been on my mind a lot lately (hiring processes will do that). It’s easy to think as non-profits that we’ve got this covered. And of course, we all use the words equity and inclusion so often that, why wouldn’t we? But these words are such a totem in our industry. I wonder what we miss by throwing them around so casually. The Shambaugh article isn’t written for non-profits but applies all the same – if not more since our work is in the name of social good.
From my experiences talking with many other non-profit professionals, our
industry is pretty good at giving clinical definitions of equity and understands inclusion as a way to practice equity. But what does inclusion really look like? How do we practice it? Does it exist in both our programming and our organizations? When asking these questions, I’ve found it much harder to get a clear and tangible answer.
Recently asked what equity and inclusion means to me, I gave the same canned and romantic response I often hear from colleagues. I talked about bringing people to the table and said something about my shoes not fitting all feet. This re-played in my head for the next few days until I realized what was off about my answer. It was a regurgitation of definitions that didn’t speak to mindfulness or action. Many of us solidly understand the concepts and it certainly isn’t hard to intend to be inclusive. It does, however, take action and commitment to actually practice them.
When asked again, this is how I will answer:
Equity must go beyond intent (although intent should be examined– doing this work out of privileged guilt makes it about you and not equity). It is not enough to be intentional. True equity requires us to engage in constant awareness, have humbling conversations, and most of all – create transparency in our actions. It is a constant cycle of listening, adjusting, and recognizing patterns of behavior and history.
But at any given moment, it should be easy to point to concrete actions – as a person or an organization. We are all, each and every human being, responsible for doing this. And this should be the ultimate requirement we have for our leaders. One of my concrete actions is my commitment to asking for and giving honest feedback – especially the hard kind that digs at my ego.
The article linked above outlines 10 solid actions for leaders to take. Shambaugh includes actions to increase equity across race, gender, cognitive styles and more.
If you prefer listening or watching to reading, try Chimamanda Adichie’s TEDTalk – The Danger of a Single Story. Another great resource that goes hand in hand with the Shambaugh article.
Today is my last day interning at Global to Local, and my looming exit presents a bittersweet opportunity for reflection on an inspiring six months. This reflection is also a thank-you, because my time at G2L was defined by its amazing, welcoming staff who make South King County a better place every day with their hard work. Because I have been a communications and development intern, it seems appropriate that this post take the form of an internet-friendly list.
- Think Hard – A Promise Kept
When I first came on in our SeaTac office I asked my supervisor, Allison, to make me ‘think hard’ – not just make copies and run for coffee (which, coincidentally, I did very little of). She agreed. I quickly realized that such a goal was unavoidable, here – everyone was already thinking very, very hard about how to help the residents of SeaTac and Tukwila live healthier lives. My supervisor fulfilled my request without trouble – I felt that I was doing real work to be utilized by the organization, and stretching my thinking in the same way that the present staff already was.
- Great People, Great Work
I never expected to feel so at home in a professional setting as an undergraduate, yet the staff of Global to Local welcomed me quickly and warmly. They fostered the growth of my ideas, and encouraged me to stretch my thinking and work-processes in an environment where I had room to succeed and fail without the risk of negative repercussions. It became clear to me that the same mindset which was allowing their innovation as an organization was allowing my growth as an activist and student in the non-profit setting. They genuinely care about people. Additionally, they were supportive and kind to me.
- Something Different
G2L takes creative, thoughtful, unconventional approaches to healthcare that I consider to be of particular importance in today’s uncertain national health climate. They have left behind the fear of failure that pervades conventional health networks, allowing them to take risks that standard systems will not – to the benefit of the residents of South King County.
I am proud to have been a small part of this movement for innovation, and beyond grateful to the staff at Global to Local for making me a part of their team. It brings me great comfort to know that there is a small group of committed people working hard to pioneer new methods of improving health in our communities. I cannot wait to hear what they do next.
Medical Anthropology & Global Health
University of Washington
A new article from the Harvard Business Review makes a case for hospitals to prioritize cultural competency. The article speaks to the importance of social determinants of health and addressing an often wide cultural and socio-economic gap between doctors and patients that can adversely affect health outcomes.
Pointing to cultural competency training as an immediate and tangible step hospitals can take, 3 best practices are outlined as the first places to start.
- Be creative and expansive about addressing language barriers.
- Be alert for, and responsive to, mental health challenges.
- Be mindful of stereotypes.
In honor of International Women’s Day and in solidarity with Day Without Women, Global to Local is providing a paid day off for our female employees. This might sound like a small gesture, but if you take a look at our staff page you will realize that this really means our Executive Director will be working in an empty office on Wednesday. Yes, that’s right – until next Monday (when new-hire Jojo starts), we are an organization of 8 diverse women and a single man. While this is just one example of many where the non-profit industry is full of women, we still have a ways to go to achieve gender equity, even in the female-friendly non-profit realm. A recent study, Women in the Workplace finds that “women are less likely to receive the first critical promotion to manager – so far fewer end up on the path to leadership – and are less likely to be hired into more senior positions.” Women also receive “less access to the people, input, and opportunities that accelerate careers.” As a result, the higher the professional position, the fewer women you see and the more imbalanced our organizations. This is also reflected in our cultural lens of the feminine “to be” versus the masculine “to do” (feminine and masculine: not to be confused with man and woman).
These management qualities, summarized in the report, might be labeled ‘feminine’ and are embraced by remarkably few women and men alike but exist within us all:
- leading with the power of language,
- cultivating relationships, building teams that release the energy and potential of others,
- building an inclusive organization that “makes the strengths of their people effective and their weaknesses irrelevant”
In the words of Francis Hesselbein: “some might call this feminine management, others would call it the enlightened way that we all must lead.”
For every women and man in the world, I would leave you with this: Gender inequity hurts everyone: women and men of every race, creed, and affiliation. We are being given a great opportunity to bring balance back into the world and break free from the boxes we’ve imposed on each other and ourselves – let’s take the opportunity.
My challenge to you for the month ahead is to read up on gender equity (I’m even giving you a list of great reads to make it easy). Start learning about the long history of women’s rights, patriarchy, racism (yes, racism is deeply tied to feminism – both systems of oppression), and gender fluidity. Read up, start observing, then start a dialogue. Stumped for dialogue? Start with the question: what could the world look like if we started to value feminine qualities more?
- The Invisible Workload of Women
- The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner
- Sexual Politics by Kate Millett
- Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
- Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham
- The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
- Feminist Fight Club (incredibly helpful in spotting the subversive or unintentional sexism that exists in our workplaces)
If you can’t find time to read:
G2L first heard from Monica Davalos, a mother and long-time Tukwila resident, at a “Community Conversation” where she shared her family’s daily challenges with health. Monica’s common experiences has given her the insight that has allowed her to be successful in her role as G2L’s Latina Community Health Worker. Together with G2L, she channels the concerns and issues community members face and uses this platform to continuously listen and amplify the marginalized voices of others to bring better health to S. King County.
For more about Monica’s journey from community member to community health worker at G2L, check out: http://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/in-s-king-county-an-extraordinary-effort-to-bring-better-health/