In recent years, many independent schools have invested resources in fostering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within their organizations. Many schools are already integrating technology to make their school environments more inclusive and belonging. For example, technology leaders can add closed captioning for virtual experiences; explain how school employees can add pronouns to their Zoom ID profiles and why; or add a name pronunciation widget for meetings and email signatures.
While these efforts are admirable, there is so much more schools can do, explained Christina Lewellen, executive director of the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS), during a concurrent session at the 2023 NBOA Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
For example, a recent Deloitte survey of 400 tech executives indicates that data needed to achieve effective DEI goals and metrics are often locked in disparate and incomplete platforms or are not being collected at all. And not all organizations enable their employees to self-identify attributes, complicating the effort to gain a holistic understanding of workforce demographics or connect individuals to each other.
To make the most of DEI-related investments, business officers will benefit from a window into innovative strategies being deployed at independent schools around the country. Lewellen offered Annual Meeting attendees an emerging framework, recently released in full at ALTIS’ Annual Meeting May 2-3, that considers how tech and business teams can partner with DEI administrators and practitioners; educate and demand changes from vendors; and become DEI game-changers in hiring, mentoring and inclusion.
DEI Framework for Operational Leaders
ATLIS’ DEI framework breaks down DEI implementation into three distinct lenses: people, processes and technology. Within each section, ATLIS offers three modes of implementation: walking, crawling and running, with the ultimate goal that all schools can get to the “running” mark.
In the lens of technology:
- When “walking,” leaders actively build an inclusive learning environment supported by technology. Put in practice, that can look like:
- Modeling the use of pronouns and responding to students’ identities.
- Providing translation services for families.
- Creating culturally appropriate school dining menus.
- When “crawling,” leaders facilitate training among faculty and staff that promotes digital equity for all community members. Put in practice, that can look like:
- Aligning technology vendors with the school’s DEI philosophy.
- Give space and opportunity to those who might be marginalized to access technology resources at the school.
- When “running,” leaders disseminate technology in an equitable way. For example:
- Providing devices for all students that level the playing field.
- Using data to measure and support DEI work.
- Assessing tools, vendors, and pedagogical strategies for potential biases and exclusions.
Lewellen underscored the importance of keeping the language of this model open and flexible, so that schools can create their own metrics for improvement. Meaningful contributions to top-level conversations must “start at a personal level with some self-exploration,” she said, as well as clear goals.
Lewellen concluded the presentation by offering several prompts that operational leaders can explore with their teams:
- Who are we as a team within the school? Where am I in this space?
- How do you create belonging in your role as a business leader? Tech leader?
- What is your responsibility to participate?
- When we think about being culturally responsive, who is our stakeholder?
- How might you measure success around DEI?