4 Ways to Advance Equity, Inclusion & Racial Justice in Global Education in 2021

Posted: Thursday, January 7, 2021
By: Andrew Gordon - CEO & Founder, Diversity Abroad

If advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice is one of your goals for 2021 here are four ways you can progress toward this goal.

As we kick off a new year for many it’s a time of reflection as well as personal and professional goal setting. Over the past seven months there has been a palpable energy at practically every level of our society to make meaningful progress with respect to diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice. For those interested in how we turn this energy, this passion, into systemic change in the field of global education and cultural exchange now is a perfect time to consider what each of us can do to advance this work at our institutions and organizations. Whether you work in education abroad, with international students or more broadly in global learning, if advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice is one of your goals for 2021 here are four ways you can progress toward this goal:

Establish a Baseline

How do you know where you’re headed if you don’t know where you are? Many professionals are committed to ensuring all students - domestic and international - have equitable access to the benefits of global education. How, though, does this commitment translate into progress? Until we assess the current state of diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization's operation and establish a baseline of strengths and areas for development, it will be nearly impossible to make sustainable progress toward these goals. Assessing DEI practices and policies is a foundational step to developing a systemic approach to expanding equitable access to the benefits of global education and fostering a climate of inclusion and belonging within our organizations. Using assessment tools such as Diversity Abroad’s Global Equity & Inclusion Scorecard allows professionals to map, measure and improve their office’s DEI practices and policies, and make progress toward their goals. Let 2021 be the year that you and your colleagues establish a baseline for diversity, equity and inclusion practices in your office. 

Examine Your Bias

2020 was a watershed year in which organizations and individuals on a larger scale began to accept the reality of implicit bias and appreciate the impact it has on our daily decision making. In 2021, it’s critical that we move from acknowledging the existence of implicit bias to taking action to combat it in our personal and professional lives. You can gain greater insight into your biases in a few different ways - from taking personal assessments like the one offered by Project Implicit to increasing your awareness by reading and reflecting upon literature on racial equity. Additionally, consider situations where your biases may impact your work, for example in how you advise students about where and/or in what modality they participate in education abroad programs, during the hiring process for roles in our office or how you engage with international students from different parts of the world. We all have biases. The better we can identify what they are, the better positioned we'll be to combat them.

Develop Diversity & Inclusion Competencies

The success of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts isn’t gauged by the passion of those carrying out this work. Being passionate about DEI and/or possessing a minoritized identity are important factors in this work, but not sufficient to accelerate effective diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice strategies. Acquiring the requisite competencies is essential to develop, implement and advance sustainable DEI practices and policies in our sector. Learning and development programs such as the International Education Diversity & Inclusion Certificate ,  DEI related training programs at your place of work or within your local community, short online courses, or targeted readings offer opportunities to acquire and hone diversity and inclusion competencies. So whether it’s improving your marketing and advising skills or learning how to create a more inclusive office environment, acquiring and continuing to develop diversity and inclusive competencies will equip you with the skills, knowledge and confidence to champion and advance DEI within your organization.

Embrace Discomfort & Humility

"Get comfortable with being uncomfortable” - Luuvie Ajayi. The principles behind this quote are applicable to achieving success in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice in and through our work in global education. Every year, I encourage attendees at the Diversity Abroad Conference to strive to learn more about topics in DEI that they might feel less comfortable with. It can feel uncomfortable or at times even embarrassing to admit not being as well versed in DEI language and terminology as your colleagues. Or, while you may be well versed with certain aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion, for example gender, sexuality or first-generation student status, you may be less comfortable engaging in topics related to race, class, religion or ability status. Discomfort is rarely a desirous feeling, however to develop into an effective DEI champion it requires embracing the inevitable discomfort that comes with realizing our own blindspots. This is essential to progress. Practicing humility is also critical in DEI work. As we continue to develop diversity and inclusion competencies and a measure of expertise, we can never forget that we must be perpetual students. Sustainable advancement only happens when we continue to learn, embrace discomfort and improve our DEI practice.

As we enter a new year we have an opportunity to capitalize upon the groundswell of energy that started last year to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice in and through our work. For success to happen, we must establish a baseline of our organization's strengths and areas for development. Individually, it is essential that we both examine our own biases and work to acquire diversity & inclusion competencies. Finally, the more we embrace the discomfort that comes with identifying our DEI blindspots the better positioned we are to grow and to be effective in championing this critical work. Let's all work in 2021 to ensure our field, from the programs we run to the climate of our offices, is more equitable and just.

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