In the last issue of this magazine, I introduced the Leadership Siouxland class of 2021 – 2022. The class is a wonderful dichotomy of diversity – in the areas of culture/ethnicity; socioeconomic status; gender; age; politics; as well as personal characteristics such as personality and workstyle; background and experience; strengths and talents; areas of interest. At our last session, the class delved into discussions and exercises designed to help us all recognize and appreciate diversity in all factors.
After creating a list of what the class identified as major factors of difference that are most evident in Siouxland, they decided the four elements that stand out as potential or actual roadblocks to understanding and growth are age, culture/ethnicity, politics, and socioeconomic status.
We used the title of IDEA for our class session’s theme. IDEA is an acronym for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access/Accessibility. Organizations that embrace IDEA are able to foster cultures that minimize bias and recognize and address systemic inequities, which, if unaddressed, create disadvantages for certain individuals or groups.
We all know about bias – when one group has a certain perception/attitude about another group. IMPLICIT biases are attitudes, preferences, and beliefs about groups that operate outside of human awareness or control. Learning to recognize implicit bias in ourselves and in our workplace is where we must start.
One of the exercises used during this session was the Privilege Walk. All individuals start in the same place and then advance or retreat according to the answers to questions that center upon privilege. The group is all pointed toward, and wanting to attain, “the American Dream” – the far end of the room. By the time the exercise is complete, the participants are no longer all lined up together; rather, some have advanced farther because of the “privilege” they have had in their lives. When the walk was completed, individuals were in many cases surprised to see how far (or how little) they had advanced. Many recognized that things they took for granted when growing up were really evidence of privilege others never experienced.
The class heard about the inequity in the healthcare system, and how little time and attention is given in most every community to improve access/accessibility for the disabled population. So many opportunities exist in Siouxland for us as community members to make improvements, so that the factors of diversity do not prevent growth and positive, supportive relationships between different segments of our population.
I am personally extremely excited to see how this 2021- 2022 class uses their newfound knowledge and understanding to improve Siouxland – for everyone.
By Peggy Smith, the Executive Director of Leadership Siouxland, an organization dedicated to developing diverse, informed leaders who positively shape our community for today AND tomorrow. To learn how you can get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 712-898-8594.