A way to move forward in our talks about diversity and inclusion

President's Letters l

Dear JAWdesses~

I realize that many of you were not able to attend this year’s Sunday night dinner at CAMP in Welches, Oregon.

However, I believe it’s important for all 680+ members to know what happened at dinner. What started out as a presentation on the results of an informal survey on diversity and inclusion within our organization turned into a painful debate with comments viewed as insensitive toward race, age and class were made by some attendees.

I appreciate your concerns about the diversity survey, and I apologize that we did not have the foresight to deliver our results in a different forum. In retrospect, we should have hired a facilitator to help us to prepare the survey and have the conversation. Having someone trained in introducing these ideas would have allowed everyone to be open to the ideas without feeling attacked.

In addition, suggestions for input on diversity and inclusion should have been treated with more care than being left on index cards in the hotel lobby. We will learn from this and be more aware of how we approach this delicate and important subject going forward.

I truly believe our members share a common vision of promoting equity within the news media and society. Our membership includes many women – of diverse backgrounds – who broke major barriers at the biggest news organizations in the country, fighting for a common good that has benefitted many of us, including me.

It is important to acknowledge that women of color have a unique set of challenges when it comes to equity and inclusion. So do women in the LGBTQ community, women with disabilities, women across the generations, women with different economic status, job status and education. We must listen, and we must hear each other.

As news organizations across America work to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive, JAWS must lead in that work within our own organization, and serve as a model for others. But the board needs your help.

To that end, I will be asking regional captains to work with our members to coordinate events that will give everyone the opportunity to learn from what happened Sunday night and to respond to it. I believe that smaller venues can create the space needed for each of us to share our own thoughts on what happened and how we can come together to find understanding and produce change.

I also believe that we should hold a more structured session on diversity and inclusion at next year’s CAMP. At the suggestion of many board members and our longtime members, I believe it’s critical to have facilitators that can help lead us through these discussions at CAMP, and perhaps at our regional events.

Quick note: Some of our members have raised concerns about the location of CAMP next year, which is in Williamsburg, Virginia. As a result, I’m checking on options and will get back to you.

Meanwhile, our board is ready to hear from you on your thoughts and ideas of how to move forward. Please email the board at comments@jaws.org. Please also feel free to reach out to us individually as well. You can find our email addresses here.

Please remember our mission is to empower women and journalists and strive toward a more accurate portrayal of all women in our society. To embrace our mission, we need all of you to help us strive toward a more accurate portrayal of women within our very own organization.

Sincerely,

Yumi Wilson

JAWS President