May 2, 2022
Dear YWCA Tulsa Community,
In 2021, we made our commitment at YWCA to ensure we are firmly rooted in our mission to eliminate racism and empower women, not only in programmatic impact, but in policy, in practice, and in performance. As part of this effort, we have embarked on a journey to become a fully anti-racist organization, from the inside-out. In the coming months and years, we will be sharing our journey with a quarterly update to demarcate where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. As with anything, this is a learning journey for us, and we hope that by sharing our journey we will empower others to lead their organizations in this effort as well.
Why become an anti-racist organization?
For YWCA, not only is it part of our mission, it is part of our foundational beliefs that racism is tied to systems. Social justice requires us to transform unjust policies and practices. Our vision is to transform the conditions that marginalize communities. By addressing our own systems within, we can ensure that our policies, our processes, and our practices are based in equity and advance equity for our team, our clients, and our community. When our team members [and clients] from all backgrounds are uplifted, we thrive and meet the goals of our mission most effectively.
What is an anti-racist organization?
An anti-racist organization allows and encourages diverse viewpoints to proliferate and puts all staff on equal footing so they can do their best work in a welcoming and equity-oriented environment. An anti-racist organization is intentional in assessing metrics across the organization to ensure proactively addressing racism, including:
· Pay Equity
· BIPOC representation in leadership
· Shared decision making processes that ensure voices at all levels and from all backgrounds have the opportunity to be heard
· BIPOC team members are allowed to make the same mistakes as white people
· Pathways exist for safe reporting of discrimination and harassment
· Leadership shows a willingness to identify racism when it occurs and an openness to change in response
This list is not finite, but gives some insight into what an anti-racist organization looks like for what it strives.
Beginning Our Journey
When we set out to begin our journey, we knew we first needed to identify where we were and what our goals were. We started with our Executive Committee and Strategic Leadership Team and had open and honest conversations about what we knew, what we wanted to know, and what we hoped our organization would ultimately look like in the future. From there, we started mapping out questions we wanted to ask our staff, and goals we had in the immediate, mid, and long-term.
Some of these goals included:
· Better understand the YWCA’s history and where racism occurred in our past
· Better understand the history of racism in our own Tulsa community
· Understand the meaning of racism and racial injustice, as well as the systems that lead to racial injustice
· Identify any pay inequities amongst our team
· Identify any difference in treatment or experience of BIPOC team members vs. White team members
· Evaluate career pathways and leadership opportunities for BIPOC members and whether or not BIPOC team members see those opportunities as accessible
From there, we started mapping out our next steps. Our Board did a deep dive into our history as an organization, and we also mapped out a pathway for our team and Board to learn about Tulsa’s history of racism. What we learned from this process will be shared in a future quarterly letter. We also sent out a call for proposals to lead a Racial Equity Audit. We worked with our Board and staff to determine the scale and scope of the audit and what we hoped to learn from it. We received several responses, and ultimately decided to work with Elsa Marquez from The Leadership Consultancy.
Over the next several months, Elsa led more than 100 conversations with team members, Board members, donors, and community partners to evaluate where we were doing well, and what our major gaps and opportunities for improvement were. From the beginning, we committed to being transparent with our team, our Board, and the community about this process. We knew that we did not take this on to give ourselves pats on the back. We took this on because we wanted to know where we could do better. We concluded the audit at the end of 2021 and have since been working on a blueprint of success and next steps. At the end of the second quarter, we will be rolling out the audit to the public, as well as information about our next steps in our journey.
I hope you will continue on this journey of growth with us. We are committed to learning, acknowledging our mistakes, elevating our team’s successes, and leading with humility as we advance our mission to eliminate racism and empower women. Together, we will transform the conditions that marginalize communities, and we will advance equity for all.
Together we rise,
Julie Davis, Chief Executive Officer