In middle school my family of four moved out of our two-bedroom apartment and into a Habitat for Humanity house. At the time, I understood first-hand that it was the epitome of privilege to have our own backyard and two bathrooms in a house with three teenage girls. That house was, and is, the only way my mom could afford to own her residence.
Now I am a homeowner and I often think about all the ways that the economic system we live in is not equitable. For example I did not have a cosigner for student loans or housing when it came time for higher education, which I saw as my opportunity to get out of poverty. I also had an instilled fear of credit cards which meant I had no credit graduating from college. Since financial and housing systems require more in up-front deposits or higher interest rates for those with little to no credit (which translates to bad credit in the current system), securing housing and a car was more expensive for me.
I grew up poor, but I benefited from being privileged in other ways. To understand the world in which I live, I must understand the ways that others are oppressed and what factors contribute to my privilege. I must understand my whiteness, being non-disabled, cis-gendered, and other aspects of my identity that contribute to my privilege in order to be an effective ally. I seek knowledge from literature, peers, and experience, and I know my work to understand privilege is never done.
Allyship is very important to me because I believe it is the only way to ensure equity and justice for people who have been historically disempowered. I am committed to be an ally in my personal life and in my professional life.
My upbringing has shown me that equity does not mean that we treat everyone equally. Equity means that we cater the resources to the needs of the individual. This is the idea that drives my work toward environmental justice which, according to the EPA, is achieved when “everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.” People of color, people living in poverty, and those living on impoverished Native-American reservations see the most environmental degradation and are disproportionately affected by negative impacts of climate change.
For instance, in 2017 I joined the planning committee for the California Adaptation Forum, a climate adaptation-focused conference, and planned a panel discussion about adapting water management. I believed it was critical to assemble a panel that was truly representative of the state of California to bring actual issues to light and engage a diverse group in solutioning. Therefore, I collaborated closely with the conference organizers to ensure this outcome. I included perspectives from different geographic regions, economies, tribal governments and other government types, and a variety of institutions to include regional coalitions and nonprofits. I also invited a woman scientist to present new research on the climate change projections and impacts in the state. This is one noteworthy example of my intentional approach to increase diversity, inclusion, equity, and amplify voices that are representative of the community.
My vision is that our workplaces reflect the communities they serve, which means that we have a long way to go.
I have found human-centered design to be a powerful tool for decision-making, day-to-day operations improvement, and system reforms. This tool will help me make progress in any workplace. In line with design thinking practices, I will use empathy and compassion to listen to those that need help. I will respect diverse voices to identify and work towards dynamic and equitable solutions that are based on stakeholder data. I commit to collaborate, seek out knowledge from our community of experts, acknowledge my own mistakes and rectify injustices.
Continual Learning & Action
I participate in trainings and webinars, and then implement the best practices and takeaways. Recent engagements include: