“What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order for us to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.” —Audre Lorde
NSGC volunteers, leaders, and staff are moving forward efforts to advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (J.E.D.I.) within our Society. Three key elements of taking ownership of our J.E.D.I. strategic efforts are developing a policy for the organization, operationalizing definitions, and creating an Action Plan. In this article, we discuss the importance of these foundational initiatives, the status of these efforts, and how they can facilitate ongoing changes within the organization for the future.
The foundation for an equity and inclusion strategy is an underlying policy. In order to create a culture of learning, trust, collaboration, safety, and belonging, there must be a shared understanding of behavioral and interactional expectations for members to support a culture that is free from harassment and discrimination. The J.E.D.I. policy that NSGC is developing is an anchor that will help define these important elements, support our vision of J.E.D.I. throughout the organization, and over time, establish this vision as our organizational norms. To support development of our J.E.D.I. policy, Tyler Jasper, NSGC’s J.E.D.I. Manager, performed a comprehensive policy and document review, collaborated with an outside consultant who has deep experience in policies such as ours, and had ongoing consultations with NSGC’s legal counsel and Board of Directors to draft the first NSGC J.E.D.I. policy. This policy is in the final stages of development and review, and we look forward to sharing the new policy with the membership in the months ahead.
Operalization of J.E.D.I. Definitions
To establish a shared language and consistent understanding of key terms within the J.E.D.I. Policy, the J.E.D.I. Committee began working with Tyler to develop NSGC’s definitions of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the first half of the year. The Committee worked together to operationalize the definitions of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion for our organization. The J.E.D.I. committee created our definitions by diving into four small groups: Team Justice, Team Equity, Team Diversity, and Team Inclusion. The small groups first developed draft definitions over the course of two months. Then the entire committee met to hear the groups present their definitions and refine them. The organization-wide definitions are embedded in our J.E.D.I. policy, infrastructure, strategy, and operations. The definitions may also assist in clarifying language when we partner with other organizations, and will contribute to building and sustaining a more diverse and inclusive community that supports belonging, a fifth and very important term that was added to our definitions.
Kicking off the J.E.D.I. Action Plan
During the first half of the year, the J.E.D.I. The Action Plan Task Force shaped our organizational plan for the next three years and beyond. An action plan is an important document that will help our organization prioritize, establish required resources and put a timeline to our efforts, while highlighting publicly the progress we are making with the many, ongoing J.E.D.I. initiatives happening within the organization. The J.E.D.I. Action Plan will serve as a road map to help guide us, keep us accountable and measure our progress toward our efforts. A special thanks goes out to the Action Plan Task Force, the J.E.D.I. Committee, our external J.E.D.I. Policy consultant, the Exeter Group, and the Board of Directors for assisting with this complex and iterative journey. Members of a number of these different groups will be present on the NSGC J.E.D.I. kick-off webinar scheduled for August 30, 2022 from 12:00 - 1:00 pm CT.
Please join the kick-off webinar to learn even more about what to expect from the J.E.D.I. Action Plan! REGISTER TODAY!
Heather Zierhut, PhD, MS, CGC is the current President of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. Outside of her work with NSGC, Heather is a professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota.
Tyler Jasper, MA, LCPC is an advocate for diversity, equality/equity, inclusion, and justice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Tyler holds a strong belief that justice and equity are the most vital outcomes with engaging in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies. She believes that justice is not achieved without consistently trying to dismantle systems of oppression. As a DEI consultant, her areas of specialization include organizational assessments of culture, climate, DEI practices, racial inclusion, equity, cultural competence, and justice. Tyler is known for her instinctual and academic approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Tyler Jasper is a licensed clinical professional counselor. She received her master's in clinical counseling psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.