President's Perspective Blog

April Is Celebrate Diversity Month

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“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads are equal in value no matter what their color.” 

- Dr. Maya Angelou
 

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The Alford Group celebrates Diversity year-round and believes that diversity as a value in practice and principle should be like the air we breathe. We cannot live without it.

I am reminded of the movie Hidden Figures. Hidden Figures is an all-time favorite of mine and one that I encourage each one of you to watch for the first time or again. This movie speaks to the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion as it relates to the greatness that is achieved when every voice is heard, every face is seen and every person matters.

Spoiler alert: This movie came out five years ago, but in case you haven't seen it, I am going to reveal some highlights.

A few of my favorite scenes include:

Al Harrison (in charge of NASA’s Langley operation) realizes that the black woman on his team, Katherine Johnson, must walk a half hour to go to the bathroom because there are no 'colored' bathrooms near their building. He marches straight to the 'colored' bathroom, tears down the signage and declares, "At NASA, we all pee the same color."

After Katherine’s first day in Al Harrison's area – and after drinking out of the same coffee pot as the white workers – a second coffee pot marked 'colored' appears. He later rips the sign off that pot. These scenes reinforce how one person with strength and conviction can remove unwarranted barriers and allow people to work with a sense of belonging and dignity, where everyone can bring their best selves to work.

One pivotal scene details how astronaut John Glenn would launch into orbit only when the spacecraft’s landing coordinates were verified by Katherine, the mathematician he trusted to calculate cutting-edge algorithms with precision. He did not see her as a woman or a person of color. He only saw her as competent and more capable than her white peers.

In achieving success, neither one's skin color nor one’s gender should matter one iota. The only thing that should make a difference is individual performance. This is Hidden Figures’ central theme. Based on the true stories of Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, these women engineers and mathematicians depicted in the film faced significant challenges while fighting for their rightful positions at NASA based solely on their contribution.

In the social impact sector, we have miles to go on the diversity, equity and inclusion front. Development professionals of color comprise only ten percent of the profession. Nonprofits struggle and even neglect to engage BIPOC donors because of a false belief that they do not give, or because they lack commitment to increasing their organization’s cultural competency.

As an equity-forward firm, The Alford Group invests in changing the narrative through our 21-year sponsorship of the AFP ICON IDEA Workshop and now the AFP Global Mentoring & Leadership Development Program. We integrate an equity-forward lens into all our work, using proprietary tools and assessments to equip nonprofits in creating a culture of equity. Imagine what the world would look like, the advancements we would make as a society and the limitless breakthroughs we would achieve, if diversity, equity and inclusion were to exist at the center of our interactions with each other personally, socially and professionally. The sky would be the limit.

Let’s not wait until April every year to celebrate diversity. Let’s live it every day by spending time to read, learn, reflect, engage, be an upstander, see each other, and call in rather than call out.  Our collective futures depend on it.

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