Diversity and inclusion policies are not new to the workplace but with recent events, it is an opportune moment to reaffirm a commitment to recognizing the value and importance of diversity and in creating inclusive and equitable spaces. The social and racial justice movements, like Black Lives Matter, has brought much-needed awareness to institutional and structural racism that is deeply embedded in our society and in our planning policies and processes. This heightened attention is necessary to redress past planning policies and processes.
This was the topic of a recent APA Learning Circle and participants had a lot to say. Learning Circles are hosted by APA's Career Services and bring together planners to share ideas, challenges, and solutions. This recent Learning Circle generated a lot of questions, so we reached out to two planners who have been actively working on this issue, Chloé Greene and Monica G. Tibbits-Nutt, AICP, LEED AP BD+C. In their view, attracting diverse talent to planning departments, firms, and other workplaces is an essential consideration to "create great communities for all."
Commit to Action
If organizations are looking to attract diverse talent, action speaks louder than words. A statement and the best intentions are a start, but organizations need to document precisely what they intend to do to create more equity in the workplace and map out how they plan to make an impact on the larger community in terms of justice.
The difficult part is ultimately about shifting power to those that are most affected. The framing around shifting power dynamics is critical, it isn't mutually exclusive, "I think that hesitation stems from a scarcity mindset," says Greene, Founder of, Chloe Greene Consulting. "People need to be able to shift to an abundance mindset and understand that there's room and space for all of us to be heard and to be able to contribute."
There can be no progress without accountability, Tibbits-Nutt adds, "because it shows that the organization is responsible for their actions. But when that's missing, we pick up on that." Tibbits-Nutt, who is executive director, 128 Business Council, notes that if accountability is part of efforts to be diverse and inclusive, "that signals that a space will be safe and welcoming for me where I can do my work authentically." All too often, she says, "an organization's external message does not reflect the internal commitment."
Greene agrees, adding that workplaces think about their internal commitment and make sure it plays out in both specific actions and in the culture. "If the goal is to increase transparency, openness, and authenticity," she says, we need to ask ourselves: "What do we need to cultivate in order to move that work forward?"
We can start with the language of the job description. Does it reflect organizational values? What about cultural humility and cultural responsiveness? Is the job description focused on a formal background over actual experience? These are all details that make a difference in letting the candidate know what type of environment and culture they are walking into.
cultivate an abundance mindset
Make sure you don't just identify barriers; hone in on removing them. Their work with communities has demonstrated to Greene and Tibbits-Nutt that a focus on what can be done is the mindset necessary when working together to move beyond limitations. Oftentimes people focus so much on the current situation that they unknowingly limit their options. Be willing to recognize barriers and then investigate to get to the root cause. That will allow your organization to push through business as usual to get to action. Naming the barriers is a first step but be aware that sometimes blaming those barriers "allows you to stay safe in the way that you approach hiring, instead of doing deep intentional and meaningful work" to affect change, says Greene.
"It's not enough for finally acknowledging the fact that systemic racism is real, you need to be able to do something to redress it" She notes that we tend to put blame on individuals, but "a shift in mindset is necessary, we need to stop looking at this as if these are individual choices when what we see is a result of systemic failures."
Read the first blog post from the Learning Circle Getting Started With EDI In Your Office
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About the author
Bobbie Albrecht is the American Planning Association's Career Services Manager. This blog post comes from conversations among participants during the APA Learning Circle on starting EDI initiatives in planning offices. APA Learning Circles are networking events for planners to share ideas, methods, and solutions with one another, while also helping APA to learn more about the challenges planners face on the job.