In my first column as President in January, I expressed my desire to increase the diversity of participation in the IAWF – gender, race and age. A few weeks after, the IAWF received a letter signed by many eminent scientists from the USA, asking the IAWF to consider including more gender diversity into its conferences.
Our Board had a discussion about the letter and we decided that immediate action was needed, not just for conferences, and not just on gender diversity. We agreed to develop a broad policy on diversity and inclusion that covers all our membership activities. The policy promotes gender diversity for our conference speakers and attendees. Importantly, as we claim to be an “international” organization, we will also strive to be better at being inclusive of people of all races who are dealing with wildfire issues and research. We want to encourage more participation from interested people of all ages, all cultures, all countries and all backgrounds. Finally, we want a membership base that also meets these ideals, and to have that reflected in the make-up of the Board. At the February 2018 Board call, we adopted the new policy. These are worthy ideals and we know we have much to do to achieve these goals. And I know that writing the policy is a lot easier than actually making real change. However, it is an important start for the IAWF. I am very proud of the Diversity and Inclusion Policy that we have created (see below).
As the same letter was also send to the Association for Fire Ecology (AFE), both Boards have agreed to establish a shared Inclusivity and Diversity Committee to focus effort on improving diversity and inclusivity in all activities. This Committee will be monitoring progress towards and provide advice on how our goals could be achieved. Also, the IAWF Board made a commitment that we will be reporting on our progress in the area of diversity and inclusion in all future annual reports.
As most of you would be aware, this is a big issue within most communities globally, and fire communities are no exception. It has been an issue that historically has not be spoken about openly within our sector as well as within society. The #MeToo movement has encouraged people that were harmed to speak publicly or to report their issues within their organizations. This has led and it will continue to lead to the changes within organizations for the right reasons. Our sector is seen as a male dominated sector and this needs to change. Over my career, I have had pleasure to work with a diverse workforce, including a variety of gender, age, cultural and religious backgrounds and the ideas and work that comes out of those teams are always superior to the one coming from non-diverse teams. That is what is making our future exciting, not that we must do what is morally and ethically right, but as a result of those actions, we will also excel in our work.
Diversity and Inclusion Policy
Adopted February 2018 by the IAWF Board
Embracing diversity and inclusion
Becoming a diverse and inclusive organisation will enable the International Association of Wildland Fire to learn from each other, grow our understanding and find new ways to address, understand and find solutions to complex problems.
Our positive, empowering, inclusive and innovative culture will enable all members of the fire community to feel safe and valued when contributing to the IAWF. We want our members to achieve their fullest potential, while we operate in a flexible way to meet our membership’s needs.
What we mean by diversity and inclusion
Diversity encompasses all the differences between people in how they identify in relation to their age, caring responsibilities, cultural background (including Indigenous peoples), disability, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic standing, as well as their profession, education, work experiences and organisational role (professional identity).
Inclusion is when a diversity of people (e.g. different ages, genders) feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and can freely contribute their perspectives and talents to improve the IAWF.
We live our diversity and inclusion values when our people:
- leverage the experience and ideas of others
- embrace different viewpoints
- feel they belong and know their unique contribution is valued
- have equal opportunity to participate
- connect synergistically with our diverse membership and broader fire community to understand their needs.
By year 2025 we will strive to achieve the following:
- Gender balance at our conferences, including panels, keynote speakers and registrations.
- Gender balance within our membership and Board members.
- Geographic diversity within the membership, Board members and IAWF activities.
- Greater inclusion of other underrepresented groups (age, Indigenous, disability, etc)
We will achieve our goals by;
- Actively seeking gender balance for our conferences and membership
- Actively encouraging and proactively seeking membership from all parts of the globe
- Actively encouraging and proactively seeking members from all different professional backgrounds within the global fire community.
- Eliminating any organisational structures or actions that oppress, exclude, limit or discriminate on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, financial ability, sexual orientation, religion, disability or age.