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Creating a Diverse & Inclusive Society

Rixio Medina, CSP, CPP, 2018-19 ASSP President
May 02, 2019

Rixio Medina-BOD_2018 The Board of Directors has been talking a lot lately about diversity and inclusion, particularly in our discussions about Society elections, our profession’s talent pipeline and the Society’s volunteer leader development. Our desire to be more inclusive was also a key factor in the decision to change our Society’s name last year.

Diversity and inclusion are top-of-mind topics in many of our organizations as well. That is likely because more companies are recognizing the strategic value of having a diverse workforce and providing an inclusive workplace. In fact, a growing body of research indicates that companies with a diverse workforce are more profitable and more innovative. These companies also tend to embrace and incorporate differences rather than try to mitigate them.

Having a diverse workforce also can help organizations identify and address more safety risks, which can lead to greater buy-in around safety initiatives. And, because today’s workplaces have such a wide variety of workers, it follows that having more diversity within our profession would increase the impact of our safety messages.

Organizational leaders play a key role in creating a diverse, inclusive culture. Through their influence, they can help identify and remove systemic and cultural barriers that prevent individuals, particularly marginalized groups, from succeeding. That is why increasing diversity within an organization’s leadership team is so important. When this team reflects the makeup of the organization’s workforce, it is more likely to recognize and address the many challenges facing its various populations.

We all recognize the importance of bringing more diverse voices into our profession. We also know that we must provide an inclusive environment that encourages more members to engage as volunteer leaders. A diverse group of leaders will enable ASSP to best represent its global membership and be the best possible advocate for the OSH profession and OSH professionals.

This value statement from the Society’s operating guidelines directs our efforts in this area: “We will encourage the ongoing equal opportunity for participation of all within the Society without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, personal beliefs, age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or physical challenges. We will also foster a Society culture that values and responds to the rich diversity of its staff and members.”

For ASSP to live this value statement, we must strive to maintain a multidimensional, diversified staff and membership that is reflective of the entire profession. We must also encourage staff and volunteers to adopt an inclusive language and presentation style that positively reflects and supports the cultural diversity the Society strives to develop and maintain. In addition, we need to make sure our programs accommodate members with physical challenges. And, we need to ensure that we are providing education that is culturally, socially and gender inclusive in our publications and courses.

In addition, each of us can work to better understand the role that unconscious bias often plays in how we interact in the world. We all can take steps to acknowledge and stop acting on stereotypes that we have assigned to groups of people based on personal traditions, values and cultural experiences.

The current makeup of the Board of Directors reflects progress in this area. I am a Hispanic immigrant and we have five women board members, two of whom are our next two presidents. But our board changes each year and we must remain committed to achieving diversity within our leadership pipeline.

Each of you can help us deliver on this commitment. Here are three quick ideas:

1) Encourage diverse members in your professional network to consider a leadership position with the Society. Share this link with them so they can learn more about the roles available and the benefits we all will receive through their active involvement.

2) If you have served in a volunteer role, consider mentoring potential leaders. Your coaching and insight will help them navigate their volunteer path and encourage them to remain actively involved.

3) Encourage your colleagues to explore the value they may receive from joining one of our common interest groups: Blacks in Safety Excellence, Emerging Professionals in OSH, Hispanic Safety Professionals and Women in Safety Excellence. ASSP is committed to principles of fairness and respect for all. Our goal is to encourage the free and open exchange of ideas that will advance the Society and our profession.

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