Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar hosted by Jael Richardson. I first met Jael at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference back in October and I was immediately struck both by her excellence as a speaker and by her passion for diversity.
While I highly recommend viewing the whole webinar (https://ontariopresents.ca/resources/recorded-webinar-beyond-%E2%80%9Cdiversity%E2%80%9D-embracing-inclusion-expanding-arts), the biggest takeaways for me were:
Diversity is much more than a buzzword or a cause du jour. It’s about permanently changing our institutions to reflect the broader realities of the world.
We need to look beyond pure meritocracy and start re-valuing diverse life experiences if we ever want to break the cycle of male, white, cis, hetero dominance. Granting new opportunities only to those who already have the greatest range of opportunities serves to reinforce the pattern – it won’t create change.
To have real, lasting effect, change needs to come from the core of an organization. Making external changes like seeking out diverse volunteers is a positive step, but on their own, such externally focused efforts are somewhat like trying to change a tree by hanging different fruit from its branches. Real change needs to happen in the roots and trunk of an organization – its mission statement and senior leadership positions.
As a writer, Jael focuses on diversity in the arts, but the concepts she shared in the webinar are applicable to any organization. The webinar was the first in a series hosted by Ontario Presents. I look forward to seeing the rest!