Jeanette Gass is an association professional with a passion for cultivating a global community and exploring ways we can connect with each other across cultures. She has worked with international associations of varying sizes to promote global expansion and establish enduring partnerships worldwide, providing like-minded professionals with a platform for exchanging ideas and learning, helping to make the world a better place. Jeanette’s professional experience includes facilitating ICMA’s international expansion, as well as volunteering in the association community to aid international association executives in learning from one another and implementing best practices.
What inspired you to work in the international association sector? Would you recommend this career to others?
When I was in high school, I took a class on human geography, and it really opened my eyes to what we could do if we took time to understand each other and grow together, instead of focusing only on ourselves, the part of the world we live in, or the culture we grew up in. As I went through college and graduate school, I realized that working in an international organization would allow me to help build a global community. I fell into the association space without really knowing that a career in association management existed, but I quickly felt at home in the sector and knew I was doing important work to advance the world.
Being a member of the international association sector means you are constantly learning and adapting to new models and ways of doing work, which is exciting and intellectually engaging. I would absolutely recommend this career to others. While not every moment is perfect, there is so much joy in this space. Connecting people from seemingly opposite cultures and seeing them exchange best practices, helping them learn and grow together is a truly rewarding experience that makes some of the less exciting moments bearable. Working in the international association space has connected me with colleagues all over the world, and I know that whenever I have an issue or question I need to talk through, there is probably someone in my network who has had a different experience that I can learn from and build upon to better the organization and community I am working for.
How do you and your association #EmbraceEquity?
My association has a race, equity, and social justice initiative where we work to educate staff members about issues happening in our community and around the world. Our staff is comprised of individuals from diverse backgrounds, and we learn from each other and grow together.
Personally, I consistently work to incorporate new perspectives and ways of thinking into my work. I do this by talking to colleagues who have different lived experiences from me. They help me become a more thoughtful and educated person who is better equipped to handle the variety of challenges we face in today’s world.
How important are diversity, equity, and inclusion for the future success of associations? What initiatives, projects, and ideas can you share that help others understand the real value of DEI?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are extremely important in today’s world. If we do not take into account diverse perspectives and incorporate different viewpoints into our daily work, our organization’s programs and services, and overall strategy, we will not only miss out on these important contributions, but we will also fall behind in the sector. We will not be seen as a welcoming or innovative association, which could have negative implications for membership, non-dues revenue, and overall organizational stability.
A previous association I worked for had several communications campaigns each year that highlighted the work of underrepresented groups in STEM. These campaigns were hugely successful in raising organizational awareness and showcasing the association as a leader in the field. They also highlighted the amazing contributions of its members to society. While this is a relatively simple action, it has been very popular and successful. It has led to growth and notoriety for the association.