The second pillar of the NSGC Strategic Plan is Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.). Our aim is to develop, implement and operationalize a sustainable organizational structure and culture that supports J.E.D.I. within NSGC. To create a foundation and accelerate accountability of J.E.D.I in the organization, NSGC hired a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Tyler Jasper (co-author of this article). Our work has been greatly accelerated with a dedicated staff member in place to facilitate the collaboration, coordination, efficiency and accountability of J.E.D.I. efforts across the organization.
To date, Tyler has met with staff and volunteers throughout the organization and created a three-phased approach, encompassing a review of NSGC policies, J.E.D.I. program management and a dashboard for tracking and evaluating progress, and presented her assessment to the Board during our February meeting. Heather and Tyler have a shared goal to establish and implement metrics for evaluation of J.E.D.I. efforts within the organization and we look forward to drafting a set of accountability measures later this year.
In addition to Tyler’s critical work, NSGC has also had several important J.E.D.I. initiatives come to fruition that we’d like to share with you.
1. Confronting Racism, Oppression, & Inequity in Genetic & Genomic Medicine Position Statement: The Confronting Racism, Oppression, & Inequity in Genetic & Genomic Medicine Position Statement is now available. The Public Policy Committee appointed a working group led by Kate Bonini to reconceptualize and draft this statement. NSGC members contributed significant feedback and the final draft was approved by the Board of Directors. Efforts such as these take many voices, iterations and time. Many thanks to all who contributed.
2. White House Meetings: Heather Zierhut and Heather Hampel, along with our government relations and lobbying team, met with the Office of Science & Technology Policy and the White House Cancer Moonshot staff to discuss the importance of our federal bill, the Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act. We also discussed access to genetic technologies for all those needing services, testing and treatment. We will continue to work with these offices to collaborate on ways to improve inequities in genetics services and testing.
3. Changes to the Nominations Process: Sara Riordan, Past President and Chair of the Nominations Committee, shared with us major changes to the selection process for Board of Directors and Officers (President and Secretary/Treasurer). These changes were in consultation with the Exeter Group and collaboration with committee members' input.
- Implicit bias training was required and provided by the Exeter Group for all Nominating Committee members; conflicts and biases were also discussed in small group activities and committee members were encouraged to use learnings throughout the process.
- Photos and videos are no longer requested from nominees, nor used in the selection process
- Two rounds of review are being conducted using newly developed scoring rubrics. The first rubric guided evaluation of candidates for interviews, and the second rubric will be used to evaluate the interview ratings.
- Two members of the Nominating Committee will conduct every interview by video to minimize interviewer bias. All interviews will be recorded, and every Nominating Committee member will watch every interview.
4. Commentary Published in the Journal of Genetic Counseling: In a recent original research article, Myers et al. reported findings supporting the widely-held assumption that white, female trainees have higher odds of passing the American Board of Genetic Counseling certification exam on their first attempt than their non-female, non-white peers. The NSGC Board of Directors wrote a response to articulate the perspectives of the Board, focusing on the relationship between evolving practice standards for genetic counselors and our fervent wish to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive profession. To view the entire Commentary, click here.
Looking to the future, there are many efforts underway that we will see products for in the upcoming year. Outlined below are two of them.
- J.E.D.I. Organizational Definitions: The J.E.D.I. Committee is currently working to establish organizational definitions for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. We would like to extend a special thank you to the Committee for doing this very important work for the organization. These definitions will help us further drive accountability in our J.E.D.I. efforts.
- The J.E.D.I Action Planning Task Force is working away and we expect more to come this summer. We would like to send a special thank you to the action planning task force for helping NSCG start this very important work. The Exeter report highlighted the many areas and layers of organizational change needed within NSGC. We are now able to see changes happening. The next steps are the prioritization, measurement and assessment of these and many other D.E.I. initiatives to further develop a culture of inclusion and belonging within our organization.
Heather Zierhut (President) & Tyler Jasper (J.E.D.I. Manager)
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.