For Selina Dey, understanding the dimensions of diversity is a critical part of her work in the YMCA Youth Substance Abuse Program. “Working at the YMCA of Greater Toronto for nearly six years has provided me with an opportunity to experience and recognize the intersectionality that our members, staff and volunteers face on a daily basis,” she says. “Diversity is a key component of the YMCA, and I have witnessed the appreciation, respect, and acceptance of differences within this organization.”
Amy Soden, communications manager for the Y’s Major Gifts & Capital Campaign, agrees: “Since joining the YMCA of Greater Toronto, I have experienced an open and inclusive environment that has embraced diversity on many levels,” she says. “Some workplaces state that their values include diversity and inclusion for people from different backgrounds or experiences, but the YMCA is truly living those values by hiring people like me. I disclosed being a person with a visual impairment during my job interview, and this did not stand in my way.”
The YMCA is fortunate to have volunteers, members, and staff such as Selina and Amy who bring their diverse experiences and backgrounds to the Y and our communities. The YMCA recognizes there are many dimensions of diversity including age, gender, ethnicity, religion-faith-spiritual beliefs, class, sexual orientation, sex, ability (physical/mental), image, and opinion.
Within the YMCA, conversations about these dimensions increase individual self-awareness and broaden our diversity and social inclusion lenses. Group discussions include exploring different dimensions of diversity to better understand how they affect personal experiences, social interactions, and social location — the way our own dimensions of diversity affect our views and decision making. Diversity doesn’t happen when we’re alone in a room; it’s when we interact with others that diversity occurs.
Diversity and social inclusion is vital to building and strengthening connections within our communities. As Amy points out, “The Y is actually enhancing community connections – by having a workforce that reflects back the diverse experience of the people we aim to serve.” Selina, meanwhile, is inspired by “witnessing the inclusion of members from the community where staff have gone above and beyond their role to meet the needs of others. This form of unity is what inspires me to continue doing the work that I do and how important Diversity and Social Inclusion is to the workplace and the community.”
Diversity and social inclusion in all its dimensions, both visible and non-visible, enriches our YMCA and contributes to healthier communities.