If you’re a program manager, you’re aware of the vast number of ever-evolving issues like technology, safety concerns, and diversity, and how your organization stays up to date in these areas and more. While we can’t help you with all of them in one blog post, we’re going to start the conversation with regards to diversity in this one.
Diversity is understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing their individual differences. These differences can include distinctions of race, gender, ethnicity, age, and more. This blog post, admittedly, scratches the surface of this topic. We acknowledge that, with awareness, small steps can be taken, leading to bigger steps, so we want to be a part of encouraging you to start where you are and grow from there. When you deal with the public and large numbers of people, it’s important to be as aware as you’re able to so you can serve your attendees better.
But first, we want to make one thing clear: Diversity is not something that’s just nice to have, a neat “add on” to the event. It must be worked into and reflected in your venue’s and organization’s core values.
How to Make Your Event More Diverse
These suggestions are good places to start this conversation within your organization.
- Be intentional. Consider the wide range of perspectives and needs of your audience and the world around you, and build intentionality into your planning process.
- Reconsider the language you use. Be aware that some language that was once considered acceptable is now not acceptable, including language that assumes gender, wealth, education, sexual orientation, lifestyle, marital status, family demographics, race/ethnicity.
- Ask your attendees. When registering for the conference or event, ask your attendees ahead of time, “What specifically would help you learn more, participate better, or feel welcomed to this event?” You may get answers like, “Have an ESL interpreter,” “include speakers from LGBTQIA+ community,” or “address some controversial issues like XYZ.” Use this information to better serve your audience.
- Know your speakers’ pronouns and use them. We know it can feel awkward at first, but imagine how awkward your speaker might feel if you refer to them as “she” when they do not identify as such. And not to be rude, but if you find yourself thinking, “This pronoun thing is ridiculous,” eh … it’s not your business. If someone prefers “they,” then use it.
- Seek out a diverse array of speakers. Take a look at the speakers you’ve hosted in the past. Are they all white, older, affluent? All men or all women? Time to branch out. There are many speakers who are people of color, from a wide range of ages, with differing educational backgrounds, and those in gay or queer relationships that would add immense value and depth to your event. Seek them out, ask your colleagues for suggestions. When you seek out diversity on the stage, your audience will grow to be more diverse as well.
- Rethink use of prayer or mention of specific religious affiliation before a meeting or during presentations. Unless your club specifically identifies with Christianity or another religion, saying a prayer at the beginning of your meeting or referencing your religion is not recommended.
- Aim for growth rather than perfection. Nobody expects you or your venue to get everything right and in place the first time around. Simply commit to being aware and making necessary changes in order to stay respectfully current.
- Avoid throwing up your hands. Have you or anyone else on your planning committee rolled your eyes and said, “Everyone’s so offended these days”? Be wary—that is often code for, “We’re not interested in growing or evolving.”
- Resist using the word “tolerant.” Why? Well, who wants to be merely tolerated? Don’t you just want to be a human being showing up at an event, feeling welcomed, and getting the most out of it? That’s what diversity is. It’s not “including” or “being tolerant” of people who are not like you or the majority of your group—it’s about acknowledging that humans are a very diverse group, and your audience is no different.
- Be aware of and comply with ADA requirements. Does your physical structure need updating to safely serve those with mobility issues, for example? Accessible bathrooms, ramps to accommodate wheelchairs, wider doorways, and well-maintained sidewalks/paths are must-haves Learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act here.
Learn more about Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion here.