By October Henson Davis (Iota Chi, Middle Tennessee State University), assistant director of volunteer management
All members of Alpha Chi Omega have been charged with championing our diversity, equity and inclusion priorities. The desired outcomes from our DEI work are to increase diversity in our membership throughout every level of the organization and to nurture and develop a membership experience that is increasingly equitable and inclusive for members, volunteers and staff.
How do we create those inclusive spaces and build a place for our members to feel a sense of belonging? First, we must recognize the importance of challenging conversations and acknowledge that they are a necessary part of the work to achieve our goals. Having bold conversations can bring about feelings of unease, whether you’ve had them 50 times or are joining in for the first time, but these conversations are worth it.
As you start conversations about DEI topics like unconscious bias, microaggressions and more, here are a few tips to remember that will encourage the conversations to be more successful and productive!
Create a supportive environment where others feel comfortable participating in the conversation.
Whether you are starting a DEI conversation with your volunteer team, alumnae chapter or another group of sisters, it is important to create an environment where everyone feels safe to participate. You could start by setting shared expectations or ensuring accessibility for all participants. How will you create a space where others feel comfortable joining in?
Make sure all voices are heard and give space for everyone to share.
Everyone who wants to share should have space to do so! Some may opt out of sharing in DEI conversations, but it is imperative that everyone has the ability to participate if they want to. If a person joining in on the conversation is commanding the space, give them a gentle reminder that everyone should have a turn to share their point of view.
Speak from your personal experiences and share perspectives that belong to you.
During bold conversations, you should not share points of view that are not your own. Throughout the conversation, reflect on your personal experiences and how they apply to the subject matter. Through introspection, you may learn that you have perspectives you weren’t even aware of.
If you’re leading the conversation, remember to step back and let others share. You should continue to participate, share your experiences and guide the conversation.
You should not feel responsible for all conversational content if you are leading a DEI conversation. It is OK (and necessary) for others to share. Your role as a guide to the conversation is imperative to keep it on track and moving forward.
Remember the purpose of the conversation. As members of Alpha Chi Omega, we are here to advance our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Reflect on what that means to you!
Centering yourself and participants on the purpose is an important part of bold conversations. Remind others that the learning and growing doesn’t stop when the conversation ends. You can continue your personal journey with diversity, equity and inclusion by visiting our website and participating in other DEI opportunities.
Continue reflecting on your personal experiences and what you learned from others as you prepare to participate in future conversations and take action within your community! When we create a sense of belonging in the communities that we are a part of, our sisters are empowered to connect, lead, grow and serve as real, strong women.
Did you learn something new? Feeling inspired and want to share your thoughts or personal experience with belonging through your Alpha Chi Omega experience? Share your story now!