“What does it mean to a student when all the black and brown people in the building are the help? They are the janitors, the cafeteria workers, but not the teachers.”
That question, posed by principal of Baltimore County Public Schools, Kirk Sykes, pretty much says it all.
As an ECE professional, you’re likely aware of the alarming diversity gap that plagues all levels of education, but perhaps none more so than the world of early learning. Since early childhood education is often linked with future income earnings, higher-education diplomas and other adult indicators of success, this is no trivial matter. And there's no time like the present to do something about it, starting with who you hire.
As uncomfortable as it may seem, turning inward is the first, most crucial step in closing the teacher diversity gap.
Start by questioning your own unconscious stereotypes and asking your employees to do the same. It may feel counterproductive to verbalize and acknowledge our biases, but research shows this is actually the sign of a healthy model of inclusivity.
“Fact is, none of us are as objective as we think we are. One Yale study found that perceiving yourself as objective is actually correlated with showing more bias,” says Darren Bounds, the founder and CEO of Breezy HR. Ask your staff to conduct its own implicit bias audit, and then reflect as a team. The simple (and courageous) act of starting the conversation is often the most powerful catalyst toward true culture shift.
Once you’ve started the conversation, it's time to adjust your recruitment practices so that they become intentional avenues of diversity.
Here are some ideas to help you widen your talent pool:
Recruitment is only the first step in building a diverse workforce. And some would argue, the easiest. Once you have staff you need, the hard work begins—after all, you need to make sure they stay.As the leader of your org, the task of building an inclusive working environment falls squarely on your shoulders.
Luckily, there are some proven tips that can help:
Like any new initiative or goal, the process of recruiting and retaining a diverse staff is best done one step at a time. Most importantly, remember that the purpose behind this shift in culture lies at the heart of what you do best: serving our society’s most vulnerable population.
As Michel Vandenbroeck, PhD writes, “For many children, their enrollment in an early childhood service represents a first step into society. It presents them with a mirror reflecting how society looks at them and thus how they should look at themselves... In this public mirror, every child is confronted with a critical existential question: Who am I? And is it OK to be who I am?”Presenting children with voices, stories and faces that mirror their own is the best way to answer that question with a firm and unwavering yes.