“How is your organization, by any definition, diverse? Why is diversity important to your organization?”
“How does the organization’s staff reflect the diversity of the communities served?”
I see these questions day after day on most grant applications. The majority of the time these questions require reporting on demographics, specifically age, gender and race or ethnicity of the population Girls in the Game serves through our programs. While those statistics offer a concrete way of measuring diversity in an organization, I believe diversity extends beyond simply how a person looks or where s/he comes from.
At Girls in the Game we celebrate diversity; we recognize the contributions of all and that we are stronger as a whole than as individuals. Not only do we recognize differences, we are also mindful of our similarities and allow both to bring us together.
This is best exemplified by our Diversity Huddle activity in which a group of girls is read a series of commands; “Find a teammate who has the same number of siblings as you, find a teammate who shares your favorite sports, find a teammate who is the same race as you, find a teammate who is a different ethnicity from you, find a teammate who speaks a different language as you…etc.” The activity not only prompts girls to find similarities, but also the differences among them.
After girls have found these different pairings, the coaches ask the girls, “What are the benefits of having diverse members on our team and why is it important to learn about each other’s similarities and differences?”
The coaches stress how we can learn from each other, why it’s important to learn that everyone has unique qualities that make them who they are and how we can use everyone’s ideas and talents. When we know more about each other, we become a closer and stronger team.
One of my favorite ways we highlight the value of diversity is through our annual Summer Camp. Working in 27 Chicago neighborhoods, our Summer Camp brings girls from all of these communities together to be active, have fun and learn from each other in a collaborative and safe environment.
Culture from neighborhood to neighborhood varies so radically, and shapes the outlook, personalities, and beliefs of each unique participant. Summer Camp supports friendships and builds networks of support for girls that extends across the city of Chicago.
I could go on about the meaningful relationships that are forged and nurtured each summer. I could tell you how these friendships bring participants back year after year, but I think it’s even more meaningful in the girls’ words:
‘Being a camper I learned to survive around people with different personalities. Group activities helped push me to interact with people different from me’
‘My favorite memory from summer camp is…just being able to make friends. I got a support system out of being a camper’
‘It has helped me try and get to know people I don’t know and be more outspoken. It has helped me make new friends that I will have for a lifetime’
Those are just three testimonies of the 40,000 girls we have empowered though our programming. I could go on mentioning the thousands of new friends, new experiences, and new perspectives thanks to Girls in the Game. But I’ll leave you with this: Summer Camp brings girls together who would otherwise never learn from each other’s differences and similarities. Summer Camp allows girls to create friendships across communities and support Chicago in becoming a closer, stronger team.