Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at FareStart: A Q & A with CEO Angela Dunleavy-Stowell
FareStart began a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative this winter based on conversations going back for several years about how to best serve students and create a strong sense of belonging for anyone who walks through our doors. This initiative is being facilitated by JustLead Washington, and it aims to include a broad range of stakeholders – from students and graduates to the board and leadership to community members and interested supporters. We talked with CEO Angela Dunleavy-Stowell to hear more about this important effort.
Q: What is the purpose of the DEI initiative for FareStart?
A: When I began at FareStart last year, there was already clear movement to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment – a place where all students, staff, volunteers and community members can thrive and feel like they belong. The board had been talking about the need as well as our staff. The reasons are clear – an inclusive culture is absolutely central to what FareStart does. Diversity and equity get to the heart of our mission and core values. We also want to create more opportunities and more support for individuals who are disproportionately affected by homelessness and poverty and historically underrepresented in higher-paying positions in the foodservice and hospitality industries. We need more equity in these areas and FareStart can and should be modeling equity to advance its mission. All individuals who come to FareStart to train and change their lives must feel supported and a part of the community. We also need to make sure we have diverse staff and volunteers who reflect the people who we serve and a culture that enables everyone to do their best work. FareStart has been talking about this work for quite a while, and we have now embarked upon it in earnest. The conversations are exciting and complex – and sometimes difficult and challenging too.
Q: What kind of problems is FareStart hoping to address?
A: Our students are diverse in almost all ways and too many face pervasive and deep disparities due to institutional and structural racism, discrimination and various biases. This directly impacts their journey out of poverty and their career path. FareStart has a responsibility to grow its understanding of these issues, identify equity gaps within the organization and adapt the way it operates. We also have a role in working with our partners to advocate for addressing disparities in the hospitality industry and larger community.
Q: What kind of changes will be made?
A: Although it’s too early in the process to share any organizational decisions, we are looking at literally EVERYTHING, and there will be changes both large and small. Our mission won’t change in essence, but how we go about our work will likely evolve once examined through a DEI lens, as will our hiring and outreach practices. We will work to make all parts of FareStart more inclusive and equitable. Some activities will change, partnerships may form or grow, and there will be more diverse representation at all levels including the leadership. This initiative will be embedded in our new strategic plan, which is underway now. We are excited for these critical and necessary changes!
Q: Are others invited to join in the initiative?
A: Yes! All are welcome. We want to include all community members who want to join in this important work with us, and that includes students, volunteers, donors, employers of our graduates – anyone who cares about FareStart’s work and its culture is welcome. We have so much to learn from each other!
WHY DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION? SOME FACTS:
Although white Americans are the largest racial grouping of those experiencing homelessness (49%) African Americans and American Indians are dramatically overrepresented in the National Point-in-Time Count compared to their numbers in the general population. Source: The National Alliance to End Homelessness
Although the restaurant industry employs nearly 11 million workers and is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the US economy, women and workers of color are largely concentrated in the lowest-paying segments and sections of the industry. Source: The Aspen Institute/ROC
40% of all youth experiencing homelessness identify as LBTGQ+Source: Raikes Foundation
LOCALLY (SEATTLE & KING COUNTY):
24% of respondents to the Point-In-Time survey on homelessness in 2018 were Black or African American compared to 6% of the general population; 15% of respondents were American Indian/Alaskan Natives compared to less than 1% of the general population. Source: Seattle/King County Point-In-Time Count of Persons Experiencing Homelessness 2019 - “Count Us In” Comprehensive Report, All Home
Over one-third (34%) of youth and young adults under 25 years old identified as LGBTQ+, compared to 20% of all other survey respondents.Source: Seattle/King County Point-In-Time Count of Persons Experiencing Homelessness 2019 - “Count Us In” Comprehensive Report, All Home