With classes (potentially) slowing down, Summer can be a good time to do some introspection. Many of us were aware of the lack of diversity within the audiology profession. However, the recently completed Audiology Student Census shined a light on the lack of diversity within our profession. Census results published in the July/August Audiology Today revealed that audiology students predominantly identify as White (82.9 percent of respondents). This is valuable information to know, but more importantly, to act upon.
We believe the main question is not solely what are the demographics of our profession, but what can we do to help increase diversity AND inclusion within our profession? Below, we’ve listed a (not comprehensive) list of ideas to help you get started.
- Change your language. “I don’t see color” is a statement often used to assure others that you do not want to judge them solely on the color of their skin, or that you don’t treat them differently based on skin color alone. While it is a great way of thinking, saying it to a person of color (POC) often translates to “I don’t see your culture.” Consider other seemingly harmless phrases you use on a daily basis, and think about how it might be interpreted by someone who is a POC.
- Build relationships. No conversation about engaging diverse populations can take place without discussion of relationship building. It is central to any successful outreach effort. Many people across cultures say they would volunteer if they were asked, but they aren’t being asked. Building relationships is the first step toward making that ask. Some ideas for building relationships include attending cultural events or celebrations, reaching out to culturally-specific organizations, hosting a community open house, partnering with places of worship, and having a booth at your local farmer’s market.
- Understand the importance of socioeconomic status. When engaging diverse communities, it is essential to consider socioeconomic status and in what ways you can make adjustments that accommodate volunteers from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Examples include providing travel stipends, on site child care, and more.
- Create partnerships to engage youth. A great way to engage diverse youth is to partner with existing groups on one time volunteer projects (e.g., Upward Bound). This is also an opportunity to recruit future audiologists, and increase audiology awareness. School screenings are a great opportunity to connect with young children and help them learn about the wonderful world of audiology.
- Create an inclusive organizational culture. Work to educate your organization about the importance of engaging volunteers of diverse backgrounds and experiences, along with why it is a priority. Help people understand how vital it is to engage volunteers who reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the community you serve, and collaborate with them as partners in making it happen. The more representation you have, the stronger the trust can become between you and your community.
It’s important to recognize that diversity initiatives are a process, not necessarily an end result. In other words, it should not be about reaching a quota, but about ensuring that our organization and opportunities within encourage people of different racial backgrounds, sexual and gender identities, national origins, abilities, religions, ages, etc. to get involved and feel included.
Please reach out with any questions or concerns, and best of luck as we work to change ourselves, our organization, and ultimately our culture!
Ashley Hughes, AuD, SAA Advisory Committee (SAAAC) Chair
Jocelyn Tubbs, AuD
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