Diversifying our board and organization

Something that I heard at the board chair workshop I went to last week is sticking with me. They said the best way to diversify an organization is to diversify the board. And then they gave specific method for priming and recruiting new members.

So this note is to ask, are there folks in the community who we might recruit? If you have any ideas, would you list names here, even if you don’t know the person.

I recently had lunch with a colleague who promotes diversity initiatives at the Lab of Ornithology, and that same proposal came up. One hurdle to overcome is the problem of attracting diverse ethnicities to a space that is statistically likely to be mostly white. The second is to encourage them to volunteer their own time as a board member in that space. I think it’s critical that we continue to strive for diversity ( if only because we profit so much from the range of experience ), but I think that we should also consider supporting existing communities to “make stuff in their own way” - perhaps even to help set up their own makerspace.

You’ll note that I didn’t discuss gender diversity - I believe that this is a different enough dynamic that it warrants its own considerations.

Xanthe, can you share the specific method for priming and recruiting?

Anyway, I think that the first places I planned to reach out to were Southside and GIAC. I am not sure if there is a central social nexus for the significant Asian population in Ithaca.

Gender at IG:
77.8% male
22.2% female

FYI Ithaca demographics as of Y2000:
73.97% White
13.65% Asian
6.71% Black or African American
5.31% Hispanic or Latino of any race
0.39% Native American
0.05% Pacific Islander
1.86% from other races
3.36% from two or more races.

The method for recruiting (donors and board members) is in my notes but I’ll restate them here.

step one - meet with potential candidate face to face with no ask. This means you do not ask them to join the board at this meeting. This meeting is to learn about each other and find common ground on the values of your org and the potential candidate’s values. Ask questions. Be curious about this person.

step two - follow up at a later date, again face to face, and ask if they’d join the board. at the workshop i was told they almost always say “yes” or “i cant do it now but get back to me in a year.”

i dont think gender diversity is different.

Not different in any way? :slight_smile:

It’s different in at least this: We have and have had women on our board and part of our leadership, but not different ethnicities. We all directly know some women pretty intimately, but not necessarily so for other ethnicities. The question of wether gender-culture maps directly to ethnic-culture isn’t one that I’m capable of answering, but I will agree that the techniques you describe can be applied in both instances.

Anyway, thanks for reposting the details.

I would agree that white women are the easiest group to diversify to. That said these things are as the buzzword goes, intersectional. I think men of color will feel more comfortable than women of color in our space, and some of those men more comfortable than even white women.

I wonder if the gender numbers presented include any of our current special membership groups. I think that 22% is seductive enough to people think there aren’t gender issues in our space when there certainly are.

Agreed. There are gender issues in our space.

One thing to keep in mind is men at the top versus women at the top. Our board is currently 8% female. Our education staffing is currently largely male as well.

Last thing - I would also extend the gender discussion to include people with a greater diversity of gender identities.

Xanthe, I am thinking on the ideas of community people. Unfortunately most everyone I know is connected to libraries who are focusing on their own making programs.

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22% is without special membership groups. Our space clearly doesn’t reflect the broader gender distribution, and this is why you’ll notice that it was discussed in our last board meeting minutes.

Fortunately, this thread is a great opportunity to examine what actions we missed in our last general election, and what we can do in the future.

i’m just going to withdraw the post. hopefully you guys can generate some good ideas on this thread.

Yes, I really do think we should make a list of potential board members and a plan for recruiting

A rather good article on Multicultural Public Spaces

Wow. This stuff is great.

Xanthe and Jenn, I am interested in hearing more of your thoughts on the gender issues that you perceive at IG – but I hope that the discussion does not become divisive, and that everyone involved can think constructively rather than defensively. I assume that the gender issues that you perceive at IG are reflective of larger societal challenges. We could open a separate discussion or discuss in person at a meeting?

It is great. Thanks for posting. I strongly believe that we can make these changes if we prioritize diversifying leadership (the board) at IG.

This article offers tips on how to diversify a board that are in line with what i heard at the board chair roundtable: http://www.drapergroup.com/wp-content/uploads/CONNECTions-article-Successful-Strategies-to-Diversify-Your-Board.pdf

Thanks Claire. For me it’s simple, we need to prioritize diversifying the board. Yes, it’s reflective of a national trend to diversify boards.

Thanks Xanthe and Jenn. When two women members state publicly that our space has gender issues, I think its important for them to be clear about what they mean, and to differentiate between issues that are particular to IG, and those that IG has been taking affirmative steps ( contra larger societal challenges ) to address. I’m looking forward to hearing concrete examples of these issues so we can consider how to respond.

I think pushing the responsibility for this issue back onto Xanthe and I while simultaneously asking us to be positive, constructive and non-defensive has set the bar too high for me to participate further.

I concur with the idea that we should diversify leadership and will leave the topic there.

And I wonder when I state that I feel like my communication with the new board is difficult, where I do not feel respected or heard, what further example do you need?

And who exactly do you expect to back me up?

The other women in the room?