Form Partnerships to Advance Diversity and Inclusion in Your Industry

Form Partnerships April 8, 2019 By: Linda Devonish-Mills, CAE

Making your industry or profession more diverse and inclusive is challenging work, but you don’t have to do it alone. Partnering with other organizations in your field can accelerate your progress by combining resources and broadening your reach.

In recent years, many organizations have made important strides in becoming more diverse and inclusive. However, despite these efforts, only 5 percent of 2018’s Fortune 500 CEOs were women, and at 16 of those companies, 72 percent of corporate leaders were white men. With nearly 160 million women in the workforce and 22 percent of the workforce identifying as members of a minority race, according to the Department of Labor, there is a clear need to diversify the C-suite.

For D+I to become a reality in workplaces everywhere, the mindset among professionals and organizations needs to change. Company leaders need to see D+I as a building block for their organization’s future success. Unfortunately, many do not know where to start with this work.

Associations can help promote this change. Leading the way on workforce and leadership D+I is a smart strategy for remaining relevant to members and ensuring long-term success and a robust talent pipeline in the industries and professions associations represent. While there are many ways to promote D+I, my organization, IMA (Institute of Management Accountants), has recently learned how valuable partnerships with other organizations can be to making progress in this area.

IMA has made diversity and inclusion a major priority for our organization and its members. An important part of my role as IMA’s first director of diversity and inclusion is to lead our effort to identify ways to change how workplaces operate. This includes filling IMA’s leadership and board pipeline, educating staff, conducting outreach to individuals at all levels, and forming strategic partnerships with other associations to promote our efforts.

Partnerships have helped us expand our reach and promote our core values with members at all stages of their careers. Over the last 12 months, IMA has formed partnerships with two other associations: the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) and the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). Like IMA, both organizations are committed to advancing their members’ careers and ensuring they have seats at the leadership table.

Both partnerships have provided IMA with the opportunity to grow our membership, promote the Certified Management Accountant credential, and advance diversity and inclusion in the accounting profession. In turn, ALPFA and NABA are benefiting from access to IMA’s resources, and their student and professional members have interacted with IMA to learn about how they can be leaders in their companies and industries.

On the academic front, these partnerships have provided IMA with access to student chapters. Teaching students about the importance of diversity and inclusion before their careers even begin is essential to changing the mindset of all professionals on this critical issue.

If your association is looking to form strategic partnerships with other organizations in your field, similar to what IMA has done with ALPFA and NABA, keep these tips in mind:

  • Look for alignment on core values. Seek out partners that share similar core values. We saw in ALPFA and NABA a passion for serving their members and a desire for innovation and continuous improvement, which align with two of IMA’s core values.
  • Seek alignment on initiatives. Aligning on what both groups are looking to accomplish is vital. For example, D+I has always been an important initiative for IMA, so partnering with ALPFA and NABA, two organizations focused primarily on diversifying the conversation, was a natural fit.
  • Network and be persistent. Once you have identified a potential partner, look for ways to connect with individuals in the organization. Attend networking events where there could be contacts, introduce yourself, and discuss how a partnership can benefit both parties. Send notes or other forms of follow-up. It may take some time, but if you are determined to create the partnership, you will eventually break through.

Changing the industry your association represents starts with your members, whether they are companies or and professionals. Partnering with other organizations that share your D+I goals is a powerful way to do so.

Linda Devonish-Mills, CAE

Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, MBA, CAE, is director of diversity and inclusion at IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) in Montvale, New Jersey.