From the January/February 2019 Net Assets magazine
The first goal in NBOA’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan is to “Strengthen NBOA’s community: Foster an engaged, informed and diverse membership,” with a supporting objective to “increase diversity and model inclusion within NBOA’s member community and volunteer leadership.” I applaud the leadership of the NBOA Board of Directors for codifying, for the first time in our 20-plus year history, our intention to model diversity, equity and inclusion in our leadership and volunteers, the programming we deliver, and our service to the larger independent school community.
A Visible Difference: Recruiting and Retaining Diverse Faculty and Staff
But what does this really mean in the context of a nationwide association for independent school business officers? And if we are successful, how can we positively impact our schools?
As business officers, we must focus on making the business case for a diverse, equitable and inclusive future. Our workforces and the families we serve are more diverse than ever, a trend that continues to gain momentum. For instance, census projections confirm “racial minorities as the primary demographic engine of the nation’s future growth,” according to a 2018 Brookings report.
There is also a business case for diversity of thought. If ever we needed to harness our best thinking to innovate and map out a mission-centered, financially sustainable future, that time is now. We need our leaders, including our boards of trustees, to bring diverse life experiences to the table. What actions can we take to encourage greater diversity, by any definition, among our leadership, administration and students? There is certainly room for improvement. As noted in the January/February cover story, "A Visible Difference," only an estimated 7 percent of heads of school are racially diverse, scant progress over the 3 percent reported in 2009. There is likely even less diversity in business officer demographics, heightening the need to capture this data and monitor how our actions may improve opportunities for diverse candidates to secure these critical leadership positions in our schools.
For NBOA, this journey has only just begun. It is not clear where it will take us. But I can assure you that merely stating the intention, while not nearly enough, has been powerful. Since these conversations began over a year ago, they have changed the lens through which we look at a myriad of association practices, including future board leadership and programming at our NBOA Annual Meeting. These are small yet important steps as we simultaneously embrace and grapple with this issue.
I welcome your support, as well as your thoughts, as NBOA embarks on this important journey.
Q: What are the barriers to developing more diverse school leadership?
A: I think we are already seeing a shift from the traditional progression to the head of school role (faculty member, then department head, followed by experience as a principal or division head). Not only must we actively seek out diverse candidates, but we must also be more open to nontraditional backgrounds and preparation for school leadership roles. Many schools could benefit from a head with a strong advancement, admissions or financial background, among other career experiences outside of independent schools, if search firms and boards of trustees would be open to considering such candidates.
Q: What steps are you taking to encourage greater diversity among NBOA’s leadership and staff?
A: I’m working in partnership with board leadership and having robust and personal discussions with the entire board as a result. We have begun board and staff development on this topic. It has also already influenced our candidate pool for the NBOA Board of Directors and the general session speakers at the 2019 NBOA Annual Meeting. Most importantly, we are trying to be very clear about our purpose, our role and our understanding of the extent to which we can model, lead and influence others within the independent school community. This will likely be the toughest but most exciting work.
Q: How important is diversity to you in your life outside NBOA?
A: I feel tremendously lucky to be a resident of Washington, D.C. When NBOA members ask me where I live, they are often surprised to learn that I both work and live in the city, as I have for 20 years. It is an exciting and diverse place to live and raise my daughter. In the years ahead, I think she will appreciate how diverse her community and school have been. For now, it is simply home for her. But in some ways, that is really neat as well.
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