At the American Red Cross, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team serves as an enterprise-wide resource to enhance cultural sensitivity when engaging with communities as they prepare, respond, and recover from disaster events. DEI helps cultivate a culturally competent and inclusive environment Red Cross employees, volunteers, donors and partners reflect those they serve and ensure products and services are delivered in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner.
Team Member Resource Groups at the Red Cross
The DEI team also works closely with the organization’s Team Member Resource Groups (TMRGs), which are seven groups comprised of Red Cross employees and volunteers who have an opportunity to express themselves, connect with fellow Red Crossers, gain professional development experience, and contribute to and support organizational goals. Like in many other businesses and organizations, these TMRGs are increasingly being engaged as a source of invaluable insight into the cultures and communities they represent, as well as guideposts for communicating and forming connections with our diverse team members, communities, partners, and donors.
Establishing a Diversity & Inclusion Action Plan with Curated Events
Earlier this year, the Red Cross launched a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan to stand against the many forms of racism and injustice in our society and help make meaningful and lasting change. In support of that plan, the TMRGs organized its first Allyship in Action celebration by hosting curated events to build awareness of the importance of active allyship and strengthen their workplace community.
This month-long event was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail. He wrote the open letter after he was jailed for coordinating marches and sit-ins protesting racial segregation. He stated that it was not enough to sit on the sidelines and offer support against injustice. Direct action and committed allyship were needed to address social inequities and to build a more equitable and inclusive environment for all individuals.
The celebration included 19 different events with nearly 4,000 participants. Each event provided a diversity of topics reflective of each resource group’s interests which included conversations on identity and intersectionalism–colorism and the impact on communities of color, microaggressions, interactions with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the global intersectional justice movement, the immigrant experience, women in leadership, and more.
In addition to critical conversations and networking events, Red Cross’ senior leadership also participated in two separate roundtable discussions on allyship and inclusive leadership, which included closing remarks from Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern on the impact of allyship on her professional and personal development.
Lisa Simmons, National Co-Sponsor of the Umoja African-American Resource Group, was the thought leader behind the celebration and worked with the TRMGs Planning Committee to host the celebration.
“The initial goal was to foster new connections and heighten awareness of the resource groups among employees and volunteers. As the celebration took shape, I realized we could offer fresh perspectives to the discussions around diversity and inclusion. The authenticity and representation shown by Red Cross employees and partners provided an intimate environment to convey personal experiences that resonated with audiences. It was extremely gratifying that the event inspired people to reconsider how they engage with others.”
The End Result
The resource groups not only welcomed more than 160 new members but many event participants shared that they gained valuable insights and skills—whether in practicing cultural humility or better understanding how intersectionality influences workplace behaviors. The goal is to make this an annual event for Red Crossers to equip them with resources and knowledge to continue delivering culturally competent services to all those they serve through their mission—because allyship speaks louder than words.