2021 welcomed the 117th Congressional freshmen, with a record number of women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ community members. Despite these steps forward, women comprise only 27% of all congressional members; with the departure of Vice President Kamala Harris, Black women will have no representation in the Senate.
As organizations take a more active role in promoting inclusion in their strategies, public affairs leaders must actively increase diversity within their teams to create an organization that is more representative of society. At the 2020 Quorum Summit, Heba Mahmoud and Neal Walia sat down to discuss the ways in which organizations are pushing for inclusion and diversity.
Heba Mahmoud is the Senior Manager of Diversity Initiatives at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), a trade association that represents the 18 million jobs that power the US technology industry. Mahmoud creates programs and initiatives to support CTA members in making their organizations more inclusive and diverse.
Neal Walia is a Senior Customer Success Manager as well as a founding member of Quorum’s Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) Council. Quorum’s I&D Council serves to foster diverse perspectives within Quorum to facilitate conditions for all team members to thrive.
Discover how Mahmoud and Walia’s best practices can help you build and support a diverse and inclusive team, from small organizations to large:
Here are three ways an I&D lens can make you a better lobbyist:
1. Build a diverse network by tracking your time
Lobbyists and legislative affairs teams can incorporate diversity in their advocacy strategy through their interactions with lawmakers. Set a specific goal for meetings with BIPOC legislators, or meeting with a representative sample of men and women. Log your meetings in a stakeholder engagement system to hold yourself accountable to this goal. The more diverse your networks, the more rooms you’re invited to and the further your message will go.
2. Make participation accessible for advocates
Storytelling to lawmakers from advocates with diverse backgrounds gives legislators the opportunity to hear from a broad coalition of constituents. Online grassroots campaigns are an effective way to attract new and diverse advocates as they present a low barrier to entry for participation. For those not used to engaging in the legislative process, online advocacy campaigns are a great chance to dip their toes in. Virtual advocacy opportunities during COVID-19, such as virtual fly-ins, make participation more accessible for those who can’t fly to Washington or their state capital.
3. Share an inclusive message that’s built to last
Lastly, for public affairs professionals to be successful with their I&D strategy, consistent and accessible messaging tailored for longevity is vital. If you’re making I&D a part of your lobbying strategy, share it! You can position yourself as a thought leader in this space by showing how your team is focusing on this and push your peer organizations to do the same.
Tie Your Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) Goals to Business Objectives
So how do you make these strategies stick? Tie them to your organization’s overall key performance indicators, as this makes it easier to hold your team accountable to their objectives. Outline your organization’s objective, define what I&D means for your public affairs team (whether your goals are internal, external, or both), determine what I&D success means for each department, and create your respective goals.
Neal shared some of his experience in aligning Quorum I&D goals to the overall company objective:
“An important component of Quorum’s I&D efforts is the idea that progress is key — the work to create an inclusive and diverse workplace is never done. To work towards that progress, we break our I&D-specific goals into quarterly objectives and key results that fit in tandem with Quorum’s annual company objective.”
As the public affairs field becomes less of a soft skill discipline and utilizes more data to frame out their successes and challenges, it’s important to also add inclusion and diversity into that equation too. In order to make sure your I&D goals are clearly defined, make your goals S.M.A.R.T: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. If you’re not sure you’ve done it, ask yourself: If I succeed, how will I know?