“Our Leaders Need to Look Like the Rest of the World”
by Alicion Connor
Shalonda Spencer is the Executive Director of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS). The vision of WCAPS is to “advance the leadership and professional development of women of color in the fields of international peace, security, and conflict transformation” and WCAPS creates a platform to strengthen the voices and network for its members throughout the world.
On Thursday, February 10, Shalonda Spencer brought her reflections on American Foreign Affairs and immigration policies to Peoria through an event held by PAWAC. Spencer expressed her opinions on these matters very intensely and made it very clear that sharing these issues was one of her passions; it is also important to share information like this to spread awareness. We got the opportunity to hear facts on the matter of the representation of women of color that are not often spoken about as well as hear some of her own personal experiences. While NGOs typically have women, very few have women in leadership roles, especially women of color. Spencer went on to recount a meeting she had specifically been a part of that included leaders of NGOs and mentioned not seeing a lot of diversity. Statistically speaking, Spencer alluded that leadership in NGOs and other areas (“Everything, not only NGOs needs more diversity”) do not have the diversity necessary to “look like the rest of the world,” and she would like to see more women, especially women of color in leadership positions. It was noted that right now, leadership in these areas is 70% white male-led. She is hoping that in the future these numbers may show more representation of people of color.
Lack of diversity is not just an international issue but a local one as well. Spencer detailed that America preys on those who are weak. She also explained that migrant women in the United States, whether legal or not, face hardships through barriers such as language and lack of healthcare options. When language barriers exist for these women, we fail to realize that it is easier for them to be taken advantage of when not given the opportunity to learn English or have more assistance in much-needed areas because America preys on those who are weak. Currently, there are not enough policies set in place to protect migrants, especially women in the United States although most migrants come here for better lives.
In order to combat this lack of diversity and lack of representation, Shalonda reminded us all that small steps impact big changes. While we cannot solve inclusion all in one day, working towards a more impactful diversity plan in our everyday lives, and organization standards can help the overall solution. Spencer reminds organization leaders to look for opportunities to include in any way they can whether it be mental health days or just listening to the needs of their members, any small step towards diversity helps leaders.