25 August 2011

Are Some More Equal Than Others?

Yep, it's another post about Joe Gerstandt's awesome How to Fly Your Freak Flag session as #ASAE11.

One of the exercises consisted of Joe reading a variety of statements and asking us to stand up, purely voluntarily and only if we wanted to share that information about ourselves, when any statement that was true about us was read.

Some of them were fairly obvious, about gender and race/ethnicity. Some were less obvious, like being raised in a rural community or by a single parent.

One of the statements he read was: "I have a disability."

I thought about it for a few seconds, and stood up.

No, this is not going to turn into some heart-warming "coming out" story. I'm a GenXer - I don't do heart-warming.

I don't have depth perception, which people who know me well tend to be aware of. Thing is, I never had it in the first place, due to some serious eye problems I had as a baby/toddler. So although people who lose their depth perception later in life, particularly if it was *after* they learned to drive, tend to see themselves as disabled, that's not an identity I generally claim. But in fact, I do have a non-apparent disability. And it felt a little scary to stand up in a crowded break out session room and claim that.

And it got me thinking: are some types of diversity easier to own in our world?

Example: in the association world, there are lots of fabulous - and fabulously out - gay men in prominent positions, both paid and volunteer. But how many out lesbians can you think of in power positions in associations? I can't think of many. Doesn't that seem odd, given that association work is largely female-dominated?

What about people with disabilities that aren't visible? Hell, what about people with disabilities that *are* visible? I've worked in plenty of ADA-compliant buildings in the past 14 years, but I've never, to the best of my knowledge, worked with a person who had a disability that required ADA-covered accommodations. Several years ago, I worked on the floor *above* a disability rights organization, so I shared plenty of elevator rides with people in wheelchairs, but none of them were coming up to my floor to work for my organization.

Or think about religious minorities for a minute. Many organizations are open to our Jewish colleagues taking vacation days to celebrate their holidays, but what about other religious minorities (or at least minorities in the US)? We're within the last few days of Ramadan this year, and summer is a tough time for Ramadan, because that sunrise to sunset fast lasts a LONG time. Are our associations open to making accommodations in work schedules or responsibilities for people whose energy levels might be low by late afternoon because of religious observance?

I quote my esteemed colleague Jeffrey Cufaude: "We have got to start walking the talk on diversity." Also: "You won't get different results for diversity & inclusion if you don't even ask the question as a part of your regular work."

Are you asking the question yet? If not now, when?


KiKi L'Italien said...

Your blog post and Jeffrey's blog post were mentioned together on the recent Sweet Spot show...plus, I shared your mint julep recipe. ;-)

Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE said...

Thanks KiKi - Shelly Alcorn has a great post on this topic, now, too, as does JNott.