A Message from TEA International Board President, Chuck Fawcett: TEA’s Progress on the Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion Journey
Over the last few years, we have witnessed significant generational change triggered first through our global politics, followed by a worldwide pandemic and then the visible reemergence of the social justice movement that swept our planet and opened our eyes like nothing before. For me, and many like me, this was a serious wake up call as I had never really had to think about the impact of inequity and exclusion coming from my sheltered world. Suddenly, I became aware of new acronyms like DEAI (diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion) that started to pop up in mainstream media which I initially thought was only focused on race or gender inequity, but soon realized the extent of the problem was much greater.
My view expanded as I started to learn more and see for the first time the impact that fear, bias, and misunderstanding had on the world around me. In hindsight, it sounds naïve, but the depth and span of how people are treated based their socio-economic/educational status, ethnic origin, disability, age, or being in the LGBTQIA+ community had not really been part of my consciousness. But those characteristics have been used as a means of exclusion and isolation for many in our society, and I began to see and understand the impact that had on marginalizing those communities. Thus began my journey of self-reflection, empathy and ultimately a feeling that I needed to do something about it.
Being a newly elected President of the TEA in 2020, I was full of fresh ideas and eager to make a difference. Those were extremely challenging times for the TEA with the loss of our staff, and our members suffering and losing their jobs in record numbers. I hoped this could be an opportunity for the TEA to help our displaced members, and especially those that had been historically marginalized. But what part could I actually play and where do you start with such a complex and sensitive topic? Those thoughts were further crystalized through our Town Hall discussions and countless one-on-one conversations that I had with TEA members throughout 2020 and 2021.
The TEA is working hard behind the scenes to develop our own comprehensive DEAI policy statement. Finalizing it will take iteration and concerted effort to listen to members and key stakeholders over time. We began the process by looking first at three core criteria: geography, professional discipline and industry affiliation. We know this is just the beginning, but it is allowing us to make progress while we develop our own larger diversity strategy.
The next step is to understand where we are starting from by measuring our own global competence and inherent biases. As such, in Q4 the International and divisional Boards and TEA staff will be completing the Global Competence Aptitude Assessment which will provide us with data that will serve as the basis for the development of TEAs DEAI policy, our strategy, and mechanisms for measuring our progress over time.
The business case for DEAI in a non-profit association like the TEA is simple. If we can create an organization that is more diverse, inclusive and accessible then the quality of our ideas will be better, the conversation will be richer and more innovative leading to better decision-making and a stronger organization. Plus by setting that example, we build and strengthen our internal culture and attract new members with new perspectives to the TEA. The direct result – our bottom line will improve and the association will grow. The indirect result – we build community, new connections and stimulate creative ideas that become the new DNA of the TEA.
While we still have a long way to go, I do want to update our members on the steps we have taken over the past two years to bring our DEAI effort to fruition and to celebrate the progress we have made to date. Those efforts include examining our core values, inviting participation in association leadership, expanding educational opportunities, pushing cultural and geographic boundaries and more.