COF: Diversity

From May 2 – May 7, the Tactical Philanthropy Blog Team will be covering the Council on Foundations conference from Atlanta. The individual blog team members represent a range of opinions and have been given no editorial directions. The opinions expressed in these posts do not necessarily represent the opinions of Sean Stannard-Stockton.

By Natasha Desterro, Pacific Foundation Services

It bugs me to see a table during plenary sessions with a 100% old white male crowd. For three plenary sessions in a row, I’ve seen the same group of white men sitting together. Out of the 1,156 conference participants this year, I find it difficult to believe that there were no seats available at a more diverse table.

Last year, we got a better (live and self-reported) demographics on the participants at the conference. This year, we got a much shorter and less interesting demographic summary in our registrations bags:

  • 1,156 conference participants
  • 651 organizations represented
  • 636 registrants from member organizations
  • 296 member organizations represented
  • 101 first time conference attendees
  • 17 international countries represented
  • 42 international registrants

We also got a break down by position type (Category “Other” ranking the highest with 363 people, followed by CEO/ED/President with 258 people, and Program Staff with 208 people.) We also got a breakdown by asset size (by number of organizations and by number of participants), annual giving level (by number of organizations and by number of participants), and representation by geographic area. I was trying to find the link at the COF website, but the site is down. But what about gender? And age? And years in the field? And portfolio area?

This conference is based on “what matters?” and one of the eight codes to categorize the sessions is “IN” for “Inclusion Matters”. With so much “talk” on diversity I would have liked to see more action starting with a more complete set of demographics of speakers and conference attendees in our packets.

And if you’re white and male in this field, you should get an extra packet of information on why diversity matters.

Natasha Desterro is a program officer at Pacific Foundation Services.

One Comment

  1. Leanne says:

    Very timely observations. Social Edge just featured an article about Anglo-Saxon Imperialism. I agree with your observations and the Social Edge article.

    We need to start seeing ourselves as others see us, not as we like to think we are. No matter how well intentioned our efforts, we MUST start being more intentional about what, exactly we are communicating and how our messages are being received.

    I’m glad we have you to help us see with fresh eyes.