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Community Matters: Do We Have Time, Patience for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging?

Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

As Arlington organizations seek to be more inclusive, and we adopt policies as a community to end structural racism, the elephant in the room is time and patience.

Many of us know that it is the right thing to do, but when it comes down to individual decisions that we know could move us in the right direction, we question whether we have the patience to weigh our options and do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time.

Training is often a default with diversity work, yet workplace diversity consultant Josh Bersin notes that training increases awareness and sensitivity, but it does not change behavior. Nancy J. Di Dia, chief diversity & inclusion officer for pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corporation says it “simply takes time… it’s a marathon… and the key is to be patient, knowing that you may not always get through… but be persistent.”

There are a few instances when I have seen time and patience become an issue:

Inclusive decision-making. I have had a few circumstances lately where I or others wanted to make a quick decision. We often resort to believing that those who are the representatives or leads will make the decision for the group. While I am as guilty as anyone of wanting to move through processes quickly, there are often repercussions when we don’t get everyone’s feedback. Possible solutions include using platforms and establishing processes that facilitate quick feedback ahead of time. For example, email may not be the best way to reach everyone. We can also broaden our top decision-making team to be representative of different interests.

Recruiting diverse candidates. By now most people have heard of the Rooney Rule, an NFL policy requiring every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one or more diverse candidates, and this concept has been adopted for other organizations. I believe that when an organization doesn’t have diverse networks from which to recruit board members, they should conduct programs that reflect diversity, recruit diverse panelists and program leads, highlight the diversity they do have and express their desire to learn more.

Facilitating Belonging. One of the most important pieces of the puzzle is ensuring our new team members feel like they belong once they have been recruited, or else this is all for naught. This step definitely takes time, patience, and being willing to fail a few times. I strongly believe that if our hearts are in the right place, we can overcome this barrier. If we have taken previous steps like listening, understanding and quality recruitment, it can save us time in this step.

The truth is that diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging will not happen overnight, and we will have challenges along the way. Some of those challenges include battling our own need to move quickly. If we are clear on our final goals and follow the necessary steps, we can avoid having to do earlier parts of the process again. As we work together and support each other in this journey, there is no way to deny that we will need plenty of patience along the way.

Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.

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