Beyond Dining – Diversity and DFW

By Denise Woods, Chair of the DFW Diversity Committee and Beth Ellen Holimon, President

Dining for Women was founded on a culture of inclusion and the belief that all women and girls matter. With racial justice in the headlines of American newspapers on a daily basis, we want to take this opportunity to engage our members in a conversation about diversity and unity at DFW.

DFW stands for equity, justice and compassion for all women and girls living in extreme poverty in developing countries. The women and girls we serve represent diverse races and ethnicities from around our world. We recognize that DFW’s board, staff, volunteers and members overwhelmingly do not look like the women and girls we champion.  While this does not describe every DFW member, it is safe to say that we are largely a homogenous group of white women of a certain age, education, and income level. We need to determine the reason for this and, more importantly, what we can do about it (see below).

Why is this even a problem? We believe that to truly empower women and girls living in poverty, we must recognize the power relationships and the power differential between citizens in “developed nations” and “developing nations.” We must foster understanding internally within our own organization, even as we seek to create bridges outside of our organization.

In addition, we know that diverse voices are essential for making innovative strategic decisions as an organization and for achieving our bold 2020 Vision.  As we developed our 2020 Vision, we listened to the many voices of our members and committed to addressing the long-recognized issue of diversity at DFW.  Barb Collins, Board Chair and Co-Founder, stated: “The board is unanimous in the need to broaden our demographics, transcending boundaries of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, and ability. This is why diversity is singled out as a strategic priority in the 2020 Vision.”

DFW is addressing this with a multi-pronged effort including:

  1. A Diversity Committee has been established to ensure that our commitment to diversity is clear and to develop and implement a plan for embracing inclusion in all areas of DFW.  The committee’s mission and purpose is currently being developed and will include examining DFW as a system in order to determine what visible and invisible barriers exist and to ensure that everyone feels welcome and empowered within DFW.
  2. At the board level, we are in the process of identifying an individual to serve in a new Grantee Stakeholder position. This will help ensure that our board is more representative of the women and girls we serve.
  3. We are also seeking individuals – with diverse backgrounds – to serve in advisory capacities on the Grants and Partnerships Oversight Committee and the newly-created Panel of Experts.

Even as we begin to determine how to embrace diversity, we will be asking these questions through our Diversity Committee:

  1. What does a vital, healthy DFW look like through the lens of diversity and full inclusion? What does it feel like? How will we know it?
  2. How do we equip our volunteer leadership to foster the growth of diversity in all our chapters? What knowledge, skills, and new behaviors do volunteer leaders need to embrace in order to move into this next stage of DFW’s development?
  3. What is the role of DFW’s home office in building capacity to grow vital, healthy, diverse chapters that are fully inclusive?
  4. What does DFW need to do to dismantle unconscious bias or assumptions operating within the organization? This includes, but is not limited to, examining what messages our website and all our communications send to our members and visitors.

As we explore this path of unity and excellence we need your voice to join the choir. You can do this by applying to become a member of our new Diversity Committee.  And while we welcome all women and gender identities to apply, we are specifically seeking women of color whose voices are valued and vitally needed. Please help write the lyrics by applying here now. The application deadline is August 15th.  Apply HERE.