I’m an experienced professional with 14+ years working in associations. Over eight of those years were focused on building and growing global communities. I am skilled at developing cohesive community strategies that connect to an association’s mission and goals while cultivating an experience that supports the full member journey.
What inspired you to work in the international association sector? Would you recommend this career to others?
At the heart of what they do, associations are community-centred. My job within this is to help these organisations build community structures and strategies that create the ideal conditions for them to carry out their mission. Because associations put people at the centre of their work, they have the ability to create lasting and impactful change for those who engage with them.
It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to change the world. International associations are doing just that. If someone is looking for a way to actively make a difference through the work that they do and affect lasting change, I would absolutely recommend this career.
Can you remember a time when you needed to #BreakTheBias?
I believe that as a black woman in business, I #BreakTheBias every day. My focus within the association industry is online communities. By and large, the voices that are generally elevated within this field don’t look like me, or any other BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of colour) women. In many cases, BIPOC voices are elevated when it comes to matters of DE&I, even though the knowledge that we hold as professionals far exceeds how to create DE&I strategies.
As a black woman in this space, I’ve learned to be consistent and insistent with the information that I share. Sure, I can talk about DE&I until I’m blue in the face, but I intentionally use my voice to speak on topics that serve my profession and, while sometimes that includes DE&I, this approach allows me to highlight my expertise and share other knowledge relevant to my chosen field. This allows me and others to be seen as experts in the industry, not just in DE&I. Amplifying the voices of those who look like me is another step in ensuring we continue to #BreakTheBias.
How important are diversity, equity, and inclusion for the future success of associations?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be engrained into the way associations move forward. It’s no longer an option when it comes to strategizing for a strong future. Associations have a responsibility to represent the collective as it pertains to their mission and DEI has to be at the centre of that work. Not only must DEI be embedded in their operations, but also in their internal and external culture.
What concrete actions have helped you promote DEI?
At my current organization, I help lead DEI efforts as it pertains to the employee experience – one aspect of the larger DEI work we are doing. In this capacity, I have worked with a small team to launch ‘listening sessions’ and put aside office hours for private DEI conversations. We instigate roundtable discussions to make space for tough conversations, and we are developing and preparing to launch our Employee Resource Group program. This work has allowed us to be open and honest about where we are and how we are progressing as an organization all while being vulnerable enough to admit that we may not always get it right, but we’re committed to learning. Through these efforts, our staff has voiced how pleased they are about the association’s continued focus on making this work a strategic priority and it is starting to profoundly shift the culture around the association.