Afraid to Ask: Diversity & Inclusion

Guest post by Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, MA, CHES – Director of Education and Outreach for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland

Last week at the November Afraid to Ask, we hosted a panel on Diversity and Inclusion. Panelists included (left to right):


Henny Ohr , Executive Director – EMBARC | Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center
Sonia Reyes-Snyder, Regional Director – Proteus, Inc.
Marvin DeJear, Director – Evelyn K Davis Center for Working Families

Each of the panelists spoke about their personal experiences growing up with diversity and how they work to be inclusive within their organizations. Discrimination and racism still occur today, whether people realize or even recognize their biases or how their words and actions are coming across. Questions for the panel ranged from asking about training within the organization to utilizing an interpreter/translator to addressing individuals we work with who do not want to acknowledge diversity or work toward becoming more inclusive.

The question regarding training was asked regarding cultural competency for employees of an organization. I challenge us all to refrain from using cultural competency as the umbrella term for training and use other titles such as cultural inclusivity, cultural humility, or cultural responsive. We can never be fully competent of other cultures, communities, groups, or individuals. Additionally, we can never be fully competent of the community we identify with. For example, Sonia talked about how she identifies as Latina but since she is from El Salvador, she could not provide adequate information on another Latino culture for example in Honduras. Training should begin where each individual is at through assessments and reflection. We must first understand ourselves and the culture we bring before we can learn about and appreciate other cultures. There are a variety of resources on cultural inclusivity training and we all can reach out to organizations such as EMBARC, Proteus, and the Evelyn K Davis Center for assistance.

There was extensive discussion on the use of interpretation and translation services. Although many organizations are hiring bilingual employees, there are not enough to adequately serve our communities and we do not have many bilingual workers outside of English and Spanish. When looking for an interpreter or translator, it is important to find a certified interpreter/translator. If an organization is producing bilingual materials, have multiple sets of eyes to review is important to review literacy levels and make sure it is as understandable as possible in all of the dialects. EMBARC and Proteus would be resources if organizations are interested in assistance with translation. Here are some other resources on interpretation and translation:

Iowa Interpretaters and Translaters Assocation
Iowa International Center & Free emergency interpretation services

Thank you to Des Moines University for hosting! DMU has some great initiatves working toward a more diverse and inclusive environment run out of the Office of diversity and Multicultural Affairs. They are a great model for organizations to work toward which includes events, training, and incorporating community members and organizations.

I am excited about the opportunities ahead of us in our community, organizations, and within YNPN! Looking forward to working with all of you to create a more diverse and inclusive Des Moines.

Interested in learning more about Diversity & Inclusion? Register to attend the FREE  2nd Annual Executive Forum on Diversity & Inclusion the Greater Des Moines Partnership will host on November 19, 2014. 

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