When you think about the term diversity as it relates to your business, you probably think about your staff, your suppliers, and then your customers, in that order.
When asked to explain diversity, like so many of us, you probably begin go down a list: race, gender, sex, ethnicity, language, age, LGBTQ, and so on. You’re right that these are all important characteristics that make up a diverse workforce, but it is important to keep up to speed on how this list is evolving and becoming more inclusive. For example, just a few short years ago, classifying LGBTQ as a diverse characteristic was taboo, and “something we don’t talk about in the workplace”. These categories are ever growing as we analyze and destigmatize individual characteristics that intersect with every part of who we are as business owners, employers, consumers, community members, and very much a part of who we are in our family and social circles. So why is it then, that when we talk about disabilities and mental illness we often do not look at them through the same diversity lens that we use for the other categories in the list?
GSBA is in the process of reviewing our very own diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, and as part of that work, we too are looking at ways that we can broaden our definitions, improve our policies, and help lead our members to do the same. That is why GSBA has taken the Welcome Inclusion (WIN) Business Pledge, is supporting Special Olympics Washington and the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle this July, and is supporting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Washington during National Mental Health Month in May. We know that diversity takes many forms, and we know that even in the LGBTQ and allied community, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as those experiencing mental illness are often stigmatized, underserved, and in the employment sector often times undervalued. GSBA believes that embracing diversity means embracing the whole person, and all of the differences brought to the table.
WIN BUSINESS PLEDGE
The timing is perfect to sign the WIN Business Pledge. Businesses who sign the pledge are marking themselves as a business that is accessible to clients and families with disabilities, and will be placed on a map for families to search for welcoming organizations. This means that WIN is able to promote welcoming businesses to the thousands of travelers coming to Seattle for the US Games in July. The signature pledge drive is in partnership with with the Arc of King County and the Special Olympic USA Games. From the Welcome Inclusion website, “WIN is a public awareness and capacity building campaign that will facilitate rapid, transformative community change to promote a world of inclusion for children and adults with intellectual, behavioral, and social differences”. They focus on three key activities to achieve their mission: awareness, community, and training. WIN is running the pledge campaign year-round, but local businesses are encouraged to take the pledge now to declare their inclusiveness and accessibility before the Special Olympics US Games in Seattle early July.
SPECIAL OLYMPICS WASHINGTON and the SPECIAL OLYMPICS USA GAMES
Special Olympics USA Games will kick off July 1st. The 2018 USA Games will offer 14 sports in the best sports facilities in the greater Seattle region, beginning with an opening ceremony at Husky Stadium which will include the lighting of the torch, Parade of Athletes, a 2,018 voice choir, Ann Wilson of Heart, and so much more. The Games website describes the program as “the Opening Ceremony launches six extraordinary days of competition and special events where the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities will be celebrated at the national level. Thousands of Seattleites and visitors will experience the transformative power of sport, and the positive impact of a more inclusive world for all”. Attending the competitions is free to attend, but if you can’t attend the games, the best way to support the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle 2018, is to buy a ticket and attend the opening ceremony. Tickets start at just $20, and the ceremony is sure to be like nothing you have seen in Washington before.
NATIONAL ALLIANCE on MENTAL ILLNESS (NAMI) WASHINGTON
Nearly one in every five adults in the United States experience some form of diagnosable mental illness every year. That statistic is staggering when you think that in Washington, there are 1.3+ million people employed by small businesses, meaning more than 260,000 of our employees, coworkers, vendors, suppliers, clients, or friends and family across the state are experiencing some form of diagnosable mental illness, at any given time. The statistics get worse when you take into account other factors such as, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, occurrences are higher in women, highest between the ages of 18-49, highest for people of two or more races. And higher still for owners of small business. And there is no shortage of research that shows how these numbers swell in the LGBTQ community at large. With the reality that 20% of our friends and neighbors are experiencing a diagnosable mental illness, GSBA supports the work of NAMI Washington, and the resources NAMI Washington offers to the LGBTQ community. NAMI has an upcoming event, the NAMIWalks in Kirkland on June 2nd to raise awareness and donations to increase access to services.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just key words and tricky phrases we use to promote our work at GSBA. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is the work to be done to improve our role as your LGBTQ chamber of commerce. We invite you to join GSBA in broadening your definition of diversity to include disabilities, mental health, and so much more. By being inclusive of these communities, you are helping remove the sigma, as well as honoring your staff, suppliers, customers, and community for the whole person that they are.