Embrace the Tenets of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

This is Part 5 of my 5-part series giving details about my campaign platform for running for President-Elect of the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy. Voting opens April 1, 2021 and I would greatly appreciate your support.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has become a focal issue across many organizations in the past couple years. It has become apparent that the mechanisms that marginalize certain groups are often implicit and unintentional which makes them no less harmful, but much more difficult to eradicate.

It is important for all of our members to feel welcome and seen. The best way to feel that is to see others like you being able to succeed and advance. As is commonly said, “If I can’t see me, I can’t be me.”

When assessing a professional organization for DEI, the first question to ask is, “Does our face look like our membership?” The “face” of a professional organization would be the people who make up its leadership and conference presenter rosters.

When I joined the Executive Committee in 2019 as the Representative at Large, I spearheaded the push for our Academy to start a DEI Task Force to do a formal assessment of the diversity of the face of the Academy. The initial finding of the task force was that yes, gender diversity of our CSM presenters was where it should be. But gender diversity didn’t hold up as well in other areas. Racial diversity of the Academy’s face was very far from matching the diversity of our membership in every respect.

At CSM in February of 2020 (before the pandemic), the DEI Task Force met in person and concluded that the Academy had a systemic problem that required a fully commissioned and permanent DEI Committee. This committee was founded to start a formal process of advising the Executive Committee and addressing these issues.

I am very proud of the groundwork being laid by our DEI Committee at this time (it now includes a DEI Community of AASPT members and non-members). This will be a long and intentional process that will not be fixed overnight. The Academy’s progress will be continuously reevaluated and adjusted as needed.

You asked, “Does our face look like our membership?” But are there other questions that we need to ask?

Yes. Two more.

The second question would be, “Does our membership look like our profession?” This is asking if our demographic breakdown of members matches the breakdown of ALL sports physical therapists.

The honest answer here is that we don’t know. Pulling those data is much more challenging. The DEI Committee is exploring this now, but it will take some time because there is little to no demographic information currently collected by specialty.

The third question is, “Does our profession look like the patients whom we serve?” No. It does not. And that is not just in sports physical therapy. It’s across all of physical therapy.

APTA has started some efforts here, and I would like to see strong support from the AASPT. Sports, as one of society’s most pure meritocracies, has traditionally taken the lead on diversity solutions. I hope we can continue that as sports physical therapists.

Why does representation matter? Don’t we care more about the merits of an individual than we do about race or gender?

If you care about the merits of an individual, then you also care about DEI. If you believe that merits are equally divided among humans regardless of race or gender (and if you, dear reader, don’t believe that, then you have bigger issues that I cannot address at this time) then you would expect to see advancement in your organization match your demographic breakdown.

For example, if you see that your membership is 75% white, but your leaders and presenters are 95% white, there must be some kind of selection bias going on. That doesn’t mean that people are intentionally and explicitly being racist. It means that opportunities are not equal in a lens that is related to race. It also hints that there is a general lack of inclusiveness (the “I” in DEI). For example, it may mean that you must be part of “the in crowd” in order to contribute to and represent the organization.

Maybe I’m selfish but I want to get everything that we can out of our diverse membership, not just from a select few. Embracing the tenets of DEI makes us a better Academy from top to bottom.

Questions/comments about the AASPT embracing the tenets of DEI? Contact me!

Hopefully after reading these 5 posts, you have a good idea of the future that I envision for the AASPT. Voting opens on April 1 – I appreciate your support!