Guest Column by Leighann Knight, AWARE COO
Diversity education has come a long way since the 1960s. Once used as a reaction to the civil rights movement, diversity education focused solely on training to increase sensitivity and awareness of racial differences. It then evolved into training used by employers to protect against civil rights suits.
Today, it has taken another turn and is being used to create more harmonious workplaces by increasing knowledge and awareness of cultural, religious and racial differences while delivering information about how to be more inclusive all around.
At AWARE, we whole-heartedly believe in the transformative power of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It’s engrained in our mission and sprinkled throughout our 10 Unconditional Care Principles.
Whether we knew it or not, our organization has been practicing the basic foundations of DEI since the earliest beginnings – when that original group of parents sitting around the dinner table simply wanted more for their family members with disabilities. And since then, we’ve evolved and strengthened our commitment to DEI across the entire organization.
Our journey with DEI is not a mere obligation—it's continuous. We understand that real change is more than a checkbox on a calendar; it's a promise we make to ourselves and our community. We are dedicated to creating a world that is more vibrant and inclusive for everyone.
Positive relationships form the cornerstone of a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. At AWARE, we cherish and celebrate these connections because they are at the heart of change.
We embrace differences because we know diversity is our strength. By embracing the unique qualities and experiences of our team, we create a dynamic and innovative atmosphere where creativity knows no bounds.
We listen and learn because we value the voices of everyone we serve. We actively seek out feedback and insights, using them as stepping-stones to shape our programs, services, and initiatives.
We mentor and support because we believe in nurturing talent, especially among those from underrepresented backgrounds. AWARE provides opportunities for personal and professional growth, ensuring that everyone can reach their full potential.
In a concentrated effort toward embracing DEI, AWARE has not merely adopted an intermittent training approach; we've woven DEI into the very fabric of our organization. We've recognized that true change does not come from a single annual session but from a continuous commitment.
At AWARE, we understand that celebrating diversity, fostering inclusion and ensuring equity are not just buzzwords but foundations of a thriving community. Our focus on building genuine, caring relationships has become a contagious mantra that reinforces kindness throughout our organization.
DEI is a team effort, and we firmly believe that investing in our people and nurturing a positive, consistent culture can bring about profound transformation. As we lead by example and treat everyone with respect and equality, we foster trust and support.
AWARE stands as a testament to the enduring power of diversity, equity and inclusion – where celebrating the value in each individual's uniqueness creates a harmonious symphony of success. Together, we can shape a future where inclusion is not just a concept, but a way of life.