Supporting Women When the Hashtag Stops Trending

Current events have pushed a campaign created 10 years ago into the spotlight over the past few weeks. ‘Me Too’ has emerged as a way to signal unity and solidarity against actions that should never have been even remotely acceptable in the first place.

I’ll leave the dissecting of how we got to today to others more qualified. There are a lot of conversations that need to be had, tough discussions, and real action on the road ahead.

However, I do think as professional, a husband and father of twin sons and a daughter, this is a moment to consider how and where we intersect with the real experiences and the daily reality that is reflected in the avalanche of social media posts around #metoo.

As association leaders, we need to be accountable for our own actions and reactions, as well as our associations’.

Making sure a true representation of our communities are included as leaders, panelists, keynotes in programming is not enough. Addressing how many of any one group are on your board is not enough. These are important, powerful first steps that need to be taken for greater diversity and inclusion of gender and race.

The framework needs to be changed. This is about women. This is about diversity in all its forms. This is about taking actions that create real equality, not aspirational.

ASAE has recognized that in order for associations to remain relevant today and long into the future, we must recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion as an association management discipline.

The organization observed, “Associations may apply a diversity and inclusion lens to a variety of operational areas, including member recruitment, leadership development, human resources practices, and conference accessibility.”

Demographic data collection is an important part of this process for associations. If you don’t understand who your members are, and how the community you serve is comprised, how can you identify true needs?

We also need to clear a path for leaders to emerge and grow, including events like the Women Executives Forum: Encourage and Nurture Entrepreneurial Thinking.

NC State University Institute for Nonprofits multi-part study completed in 2011 for ASEA still contains relevant finds for today. Notably,

“Bringing members of underrepresented groups into leadership positions requires proactive methods to overcome fears, habit, inertia, and resistance. There are multiple tools for supporting these efforts…Continuing focus on diversity and inclusion often requires staff leadership and institutionalization because champions drawn from the membership usually have shorter times in positions of leadership. Staff leaders, however, are under pressures for performance in other domains, so clarity about expectations and accountability for diversity enhancement is very important…Finding leverage for diversity can be critical.”

Diversifying association membership needs to be viewed as both a growth opportunity for the organization, but also a leadership opportunity for helping to level-set the field for all aspects of diversity and inclusion.

These are meta-goals that will require years of implementation, the momentum to weather leadership changes, and likely pitfalls along the way. This should not deter us. We need to listen, really listen, to the voices of experts to guide our thinking and next steps.

We cannot remain the passive observer in the back of the room, nodding as we scroll through our social media feeds. As we undertake these larger efforts, we need to begin with ourselves and take stock in both how we speak and how we react when others speak in ways that we would not tolerate if we were the recipients. We can help push for equality by first doing it ourselves.

Todd VonDeak is the president and founder of TVD Associates, Inc. He has nearly 20 years’ experience working in the association and nonprofit areas in a variety of leadership roles. He holds a Certified Association Executive Credential from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and serves as the current president of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives. He is a member of the Drexel University business school faculty and is currently completing his doctoral studies.