In the Public Interest

Many associations have long considered APA to be a leader in developing programs and projects that enhance diversity. In fact, they frequently ask us for advice and copies of our reports and other products. As I think about the aspects that have made APA successful in fostering diversity, several factors seem important.

It is clear that APA has had a long, sustained history of focus on issues of diversity. The focus has included not only providing access to information, but also putting in place systems and structures that would endure.

First, we have strong policies in place. In August 2005, APA’s Council of Representatives resolved that “enhancing diversity and increasing the sense of being welcome in APA by diverse groups are top priorities for APA.”

The resolution, which supports the findings of the APA Presidential Task Force on Enhancing Diversity, also directed our chief executive officer to develop a Diversity Implementation Plan “to insure that diversity is an integral part of APA’s structures and activities.”

A review of that plan — the Interim Diversity Implementation Plan — as well as the report Recent and Ongoing Initiatives of the APA to Enhance Diversity — highlight the range of diversity-related activities throughout the association. In addition, increasing diversity is one of the association’s five core values, as well as a goal of APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD.

However, APA’s initiatives and commitments to enhance diversity did not begin with these policies or task forces, nor did change and growth always come easily. When a particular marginalized group had concerns, one action to address them was to form a committee or office to work on the issues and concerns.

For example, APA and its members have created the Women’s Program Office; the Office on Disability Issues; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office; and the Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs. These groups have included as part of their missions to act as catalysts to improve conditions by, among other means, using psychological knowledge to improve people’s lives and informing the field and the public of their particular areas of interest.

APA’s focus on diversity has also been a model because of its breadth. According to the APA Interim Diversity Implementation Plan, “The process of enhancing diversity involves including, understanding and valuing differences in such characteristics as race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, socioeconomic status, age, physical ability status and sexual orientation.” Few organizations have fully included attention to disability issues as APA has done.

Although the need to recognize all diverse groups is widely recognized, the questions of how to accomplish it and how to make its importance clear continues. Recently, I participated on a panel on diversity at a meeting of the Association of American Geographers. There, a speaker noted that it is time to move beyond efforts to increase diversity — not merely because it is the right, moral or expedient thing to do but because it brings us something greater: more innovation, more ideas, more creativity.

Getting to this next step seems to be difficult for many, but it is indeed an important one. There is much work still to be done.