Contributed by Michael Huffstetler, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, F.SAME
(Originally published in TME, July-August 2023)
SAME has made great strides in recent decades in broadening its value and service to the profession. This includes increasing the diversity of our membership and raising our overall appeal and relevancy. We have aspired to be more inclusive and agentic across the Society. However, if we look backwards too often and not ahead enough to inequities around us, we risk complacency and convincing ourselves we are “in a good place.”
In any military formation, you will find at its head a guidon. Typically a flag or banner with the unit’s designation, the guidon serves as the rallying point and serves as a visual reference during troop movements or in battle. As an organization, we can be proud of our diverse and inclusive achievements. But do we have a guidon for us to rally around and take pride in? The answer to that became resoundingly clear in the fall of 2019: No, we did not.
Not Accepting Complacency
A review of SAME’s governance leadership during Post Leaders Workshop in August 2019 led a small cadre of volunteer leaders and National Office staff (including Cindy Lincicome, F.SAME, then-Chair of the Membership Community of Interest; Rear Adm. Mark Handley, F.SAME, USN (Ret.), then-National Vice President; and Jill Murphy, SAME Membership & Post Operations Senior Manager), to begin brainstorming more proactive steps we could take to achieve greater diversity and inclusion, which led to the formation of a working group focused on tackling this issue. At the Federal Small Business Conference in November 2019, we recruited two amazing and passionate members, Elaina Edwards and Debra Crafter, who agreed to lead this new Diversity & Inclusion Working Group (DIWG) as its co-chairs.
An initial focus area for the DIWG was to get us beyond the “hand-wringing” and actually start assessing our strengths and weaknesses from all perspectives. Over the next few months, the DIWG recruited additional support and developed the Society’s first-ever D&I-focused member survey. Little did we then know how important this planned survey would become.
An initial focus area for the DIWG was to get us beyond the “hand-wringing” and actually start assessing our strengths and weaknesses from all perspectives. Over the next few months, the DIWG recruited additional support and developed the Society’s first-ever D&I-focused member survey. Little did we then know how important this planned survey would become. On May 25, 2020, the death of George Floyd sparked a worldwide protest movement and heightened discussions of racial inequalities. In the wake of the ensuing riots and unrest, a great many agencies, companies, and organizations responded by increasing attention on dormant diversity and inclusion issues and channeled change through enhanced programs.
These events also served to galvanize the DIWG. The D&I survey was conducted in late summer 2020. Results were compiled into a Diversity & Inclusion Report, and then presented to the Board of Direction that November. Crafted into multiple “Paths Forward,” this document would serve as a roadmap for enhancing diversity and inclusion at all levels across SAME. We had our guidon.
Putting Words to Action
However, this was only a first step. The real challenge became how to translate those paths into actionable objectives and goals. The DIWG, to better reflect the importance of all components of diversity and inclusion and to create and sustain a transformation within the Society, determined its strategies should focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity—expanding our scope to most fully enable true transparency. In short, diversity is about celebrating differences, equity is about equal access, and inclusion is about fostering a sense of value and empowerment. The working group followed with a name change and we graduated it into a full subcommittee within the Membership Community of Interest.
We are all proud of the journey we have taken, but we recognize—like the entire A/E/C industry and most other sectors—that SAME has a long way to go. We see the opportunity ahead as a chance to not only reaffirm the enduring principles on which the Society is based, but to commit to creating even greater alignment and accountability to them. Our DEI guidon should serve as a source of pride for every member, and just like a military unit’s guidon, it must be protected from anything that might dishonor or discredit this great organization.
Board Affirms DEI Support
In May 2022, the Board of Direction unanimously approved inclusion of a DEI Mission Statement in the Society’s bylaws.
“SAME is fully committed to promoting a culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in all that we do.
As a professional organization, our unwavering standard is that all individuals feel valued and respected regardless of gender, race, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, education, disability, veteran status, or other dimension of diversity.
Together, we will achieve that commitment and standard through our DEI National Plan, driven by our vision to make lasting impacts on the Society and the future of the architecture, engineering and construction profession.”
The decision followed the issuance in April of a DEI Executive Commitment Statement from then-SAME President Rear Adm. Mark Handley, F.SAME, USN (Ret.), that affirmed how the Society will work to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive and can serve as a model for other professional association
Michael Huffstetler, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, F.SAME, DLR Group, is Appointed Director, and Immediate Past Chair, Membership Community of Interest; firstname.lastname@example.org
Spotlight on Our Members
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