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Diversity and Inclusion Should be Valued in Leadership Roles

By Maggie A. Smith, DNP, MSN/Ed, RN, OCN
Diversity, inclusion, and equity are values central to advancing the mission of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN); an organization recognized as the collective voice of academic nursing.1

We hear these terms all of the time; however, what do they really mean? To eliminate any bias per se, let us review the literature to expound on the value of these concepts as it pertains to professional organizations, especially where people hold leadership positions.

While this topic can be viewed as controversial by some; it is important to address to ensure that everyone’s opinion is recognized. Inclusion provides support to obtaining a better understanding of one’s personal and social values; this can reduce bias, discrimination, and prejudice.2

However, inclusivity does not mean conforming to the social norm of the majority, it means that someone might be a little different, but you accept that and meet them where they are.

Diversity embraces a wide range of variation; factors such as, age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status are just a few aspects of the term diversity.We have all heard the term, “having skin in the game,” well this is equity, the ability to recognize the differences in the resources or knowledge needed to allow individuals to lend their full participation.1

In order for the nursing profession to continue to evolve, change is needed; we can all make a start by embedding these concepts into our minds and giving deliberate attention to everything that we do. Leadership sustainability includes every component of diversity, it is imperative that leaders who are serving today be appropriately prepared, and that they mirror the behaviors that they want their followers to demonstrate.

These are all interpersonal concepts that require cultural competence and respect being paramount during assimilation to continue to advance the nursing profession. New perspectives, new faces of leadership, new leadership styles, all can create new opportunities with more voices being heard.  

Having all stakeholders involved can reduce assumptions, challenge opinions, widen perspectives, and encourage socialization across all groups. This can result in innovation and overall improvement in the foundation of the nursing profession, which will allow nurses to treat a wider range of patients more effectively.

  1. AACN position statement on diversity, inclusion, & equity in academic nursing (2017). Journal of Professional Nursing, 33;173–174.
  2. Woody, R. (2017). Expanding diversity: Noncategorical inclusion and equity. Ethics & Behavior, 27(6), 519–525.
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