What's New in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at InterExchange?

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We believe that international exchange has an important role to play in contributing to broader awareness and successful Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategies. At InterExchange, the programs we facilitate support our mission of promoting intercultural awareness, empowering participants with intercultural connections, and providing them a lifelong connection to the international community. DEI is central to our mission and the work we do, and we are committed to educating ourselves and our community with the goal of being more empathetic and compassionate global citizens. Through the collection and analysis of data, we become more intentional in our efforts, more aware of our impact, and more effective in the way we share our successes.

In 2021, our DEI Committee looked at the many dimensions of diversity at InterExchange, both within our organization and among those with whom we partner. Through enhanced surveys and feedback, and by working together within the InterExchange community, we’ve integrated new and exciting methods to better incorporate DEI into the work we do.

Key Takeaways from 2021

We’re taking concrete steps to create a more just and equitable workplace at InterExchange. Joining together the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion, we committed ourselves to the “four A’s:” awareness, assessment, action, and accountability.

Awareness

The first step was to educate ourselves. We wanted to get a better understanding of who we were as an organization and what our needs were in terms of education concerning matters germane to DEI.

InterExchange’s membership in the Diversity Abroad network has provided the DEI Committee with access to the latest in academic thought and recommendations as to best practices. As a consequence, annual Implicit and Unconscious Bias Training is now mandatory for all staff and Local Coordinators at InterExchange.

Moreover, we’ve hosted over 20 groundbreaking Courageous Conversations and Open Forums facilitated by the InterExchange DEI Committee, which are designed to provide our staff with the opportunity to discuss challenging topics related to DEI, including:

  • White fragility & racial bias in the workplace
  • The rise in AAPI violence in America
  • Gender pronouns (a workshop facilitated by Dr. Katie Spencer, PhD, LP, CST, Assistant Professor, Co-Director, National Center for Gender Spectrum Health, Director of Advocacy and Policy, Program in Human Sexuality, University of Minnesota)
  • Transgender rights
  • Multigenerational workforces
  • Socially conscious travel
  • Women in leadership (a panel discussion featuring our 6 Women Leadership Team Members at InterExchange)

Some of these optional events were completely unscripted, while others were facilitated with breakout groups, games, and videos. They have allowed our team to innovate while working 100% remotely during the pandemic, and to have challenging and important discussions on our paths to allyship and growth.

Assessment

As one of its first undertakings, the DEI Committee wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the current diversity in our staff. In looking at our internal demographic data, we discovered that InterExchange has a similar make-up to many organizations in our field. We have areas of strength and also room to grow.

InterExchange currently employs 64 full-time staff members from diverse backgrounds. By taking a closer look at our demographic data to gain insight into who we are as a team, we’ve come to understand more about how we can improve our recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies going forward to increase representation, and to develop a DEI program that is reflective of the needs of our team in terms of education and support.

While InterExchange is on a journey to improve overall representation through targeted engagement and recruitment, we are also on par with many organizations in our field. The field of intercultural awareness should be committed to creating pathways to not only increase overall diversity and representation in our programs, but also within our organizations.

InterExchange Staff are Culturally-Curious:

An image of a globe with statistics noting numbers of countries visited, languages spoken, and countries of origins of InterExchange staff

Like the participants we serve, our staff are a diverse group of world travelers and lovers of languages. We were brought to InterExchange by our desire to learn about and work with people from different cultural backgrounds.

At InterExchange, we’ve fostered a culture of learning, and have found ways to celebrate our diversity as a team. Through our DEI Events Program, we give staff the chance to learn more about each other’s lived experiences, have open dialogue on challenging topics, and share feedback about those issues. We share our cultures and travels through events, photo contests, and occasionally square off in a good game of international history-based trivia.

We share a common ground in our love of learning about the world, as well as our desire to help others develop their own connections to different cultures through their program travels. This makes us uniquely skilled at working compassionately and empathetically with our hosts and—more importantly—with our participants.

Gender Identity:

Two pie charts noting the gender identity of InterExchange staff compared to the results of a Diversity Abroad survey

As of March 2021, the full-time staff at InterExchange was approximately 64.1% female and 35.9% male. This is consistent with demographics throughout the nonprofit sector and the study abroad sector more generally. However, one area of distinction for InterExchange comes in our leadership team. Overall, as of 2020, women make up only 29% of senior management and just 23% of Executives in the U.S. We’re very proud to have six women serving on our Leadership Team—including our CEO Christine La Monica-Lunn and our COO Nicole Santomasso—which comprises 42% of our executive leadership team.

We now ask ourselves: Where do we go from here? How can InterExchange continue to be a place where people of all backgrounds and genders want to work, feel included, and most importantly, are supported and encouraged to enter management and leadership roles in their careers?

Race/Ethnicity:

Two pie charts noting the racial/ ethnic makeup of InterExchange staff compared to the results of a Diversity Abroad survey

As of March 2021 our full-time staff self-identified as approximately 68.7% White, 10.9% Latino/a, 7.8% Asian, 6.3% Black, and 4.7% as two or more ethnicities.

As we look forward, we are reflecting on how InterExchange management can make more inroads to developing a staffing model that is more consistent with the diverse constituencies we serve.

Generation:

A pie chart noting the age ranges of InterExchange staff

As of March 2021, InterExchange full-time staff are majority Millennials (1981 – 1995), with a significant percentage of the staff being categorized as Generation X (1965 – 1980) and 9.4% being classified as Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964). Why does this matter? Different generations approach the workplace differently, as each group has its own priorities, expectations, and ways of working. We pride ourselves on being a multigenerational team, which helps drive our innovation and promotes the sharing of different perspectives. Being aware of and sensitive to generational differences helps to create an inclusive workplace for all.

In the years to come, InterExchange will continue on its journey to enhance representation and inclusion through both targeted recruitment, education, and engagement throughout each employee’s tenure at the organization.

Externally, we’re conducting a comprehensive retrospective analysis of archived participants’ demographic data, always keeping in mind that many factors impact the participant pool, ranging from U.S. Department of State policy and Embassy visa approvals to the socio-political environment in the U.S., and to the global pandemic and its profound impact on all segments of international travel. We look forward to sharing our findings and insights in the future.

Action

Representation matters. We are reevaluating our recruitment and retention strategies to better incorporate DEI principles at all levels of our organization. We have undertaken the designing and implementation of training for hiring managers for early 2022. Our holistic approach includes creating Diversity in Hiring best practices for our hiring managers, implementing a more inclusive onboarding process, and performing an extensive retention analysis.

InterExchange has also developed a new Inclusion Statement which demonstrates our continued commitment to building an inclusive and accessible workplace, welcoming to people of all backgrounds. This statement will be used in our future recruitment efforts and updated job descriptions.

Inclusion Statement

By leveraging our diverse perspectives, we inspire people to move out of their comfort zones and learn more about the world through cross-cultural experiences. InterExchange strives to create a common ground where our staff can celebrate diversity and foster an environment of mutual respect & understanding. We seek to discover how to become more inclusive global citizens by creating space for sharing, intercultural awareness, and growth.

Accountability

Through continuous feedback from the InterExchange community, we hope to foster an environment of openness and engagement. As we continue to educate ourselves internally, we will share what we’ve learned with our hosts and participants.

To that end, InterExchange will be releasing a comprehensive resource guide including webinars, websites, videos, and more content related to the dimensions of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This on-demand resource library is being curated and designed for our participants, hosts and International Cooperator organizations to use on their journeys of allyship and education about the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks!

Our Focus for 2022

Finally, in 2022, we are developing a dynamic program of events, resources, and training tools concerning matters of DEI to share with our participants, hosts and International Cooperator organizations.

Our goals are to share what we’ve learned with our hosts and participants, and ideally with new team members. Some of our specific goals include:

  • Building Allyship through Education: DEI events and training
  • Conducting data analysis
  • Pursuing opportunities to promote & foster greater diversity
  • Infusing programs and departments with DEI resources, training, & orientation
  • Building external alignments

Sources

We compiled our internal demographic data from the following:

  • DEI Committee Feedback Survey, November 2020 (voluntary, anonymous, 25 responses/37% of FT InterExchange staff)
  • Diversity Abroad Survey of International Educators Report, 2020
  • InterExchange Paylocity Data, January 2021 (64 Full-time staff)
  • InterExchange Takes the World Survey, 2019 (Full-time staff, 55 respondents)
Machada Smith-McGovern

Machada Smith-McGovern is the Organizational Development Associate at InterExchange. She attended the University of Kansas & Peking University, and holds a B.A. in Chinese Language & Literature and International Studies. Machada's first experience abroad was living with a host family in Beijing in high school, and has been passionate about cross-cultural education and exchange ever since. She is the chair of InterExchange's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and manages the development of professional development training, education, and events for our staff.