BHCOE’s webinar on July 28, 2020 reviewed new Diversity Standards with panelists Hellen Adedipe , Founder and Clinical Director of The Reason for Hope, Elizabeth Fong, Associate Director at Pepperdine University’s Online Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis Program and Founder of the Multicultural Alliance at ABAI, and Sara Litvak, Chief Executive Officer at the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence.

The women shared, both conceptually and anecdotally, the standard development process along with suggestions for increasing diversity measures.

Below, we’ve summarized some of the key takeaways from this discussion within five themes.

1. Standard Development

In March 2019, BHCOE earned accreditation as a developer of American National Standards (ANSI). An article announcing the accomplishment states: “The Accredited Standards Developer designation signifies a commitment to the creation of high-quality, market-driven standards in an open environment characterized by due process and ANSI’s neutral third-party oversight.”

As highlighted by Sara, “ANSI Standards has a lot of gravitas in the way we do business. It’s not a governmental agency, they just create a framework for standards development… When you think about standards in the field or across disciplines, there’s a well-known process that exists for it, and that’s what we do our best to follow. We are held to that standard.”

BHCOE is accredited as an American Standards Developer and abides by five concepts including:

  • Openness
  • Balance
  • Lack of Dominance
  • Consensus
  • Due Process

“This is something that I think it really important… and I’m excited to share the ANSI process with our field.”

2. Diversity Standards

The Diversity section of the BHCOE Standards reviews an organization’s diversity efforts, hiring practices, the American Disabilities Act, and accessing services for low-income families. The panelists discussed ways to heighten diversity in organizations and businesses, including shifts to make employment recruiting practices more inclusive.

Hellen Adedipe is particularly invested in diversity standards and multiculturalism within behavior analysis given her experience working for organizations that serve diverse clients.

“I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian town…around people who did not look like me, so when I went off to college, I met other people that did look like me. It was nice to have other people that understood and got it,” she said.

When she chose the field of behavior analysis, she was surprised to discover “I was the only black girl at conferences.” That did not deter Hellen from investing time into forging relationships with colleagues, all in an effort to make systemic change in the industry. She did not want “to be the only black girl because I don’t want our kids – the kids we serve – to not see people who look like me.” She made it a point to attend conferences, and to continue to be a part of her local associations.

Following personal anecdotes from Hellen and Elizabeth, our panelists discussed thoughtfully choosing language that authentically promotes and showcases your organization and operating in such a way that is reflective of what your organization is. If unable to provide a specific service for certain clients and patients, share resources where they could seek support that fits their diversity needs.

Our panelists also recommended that agency owners and directors ensure authenticity of your visual representation on reports, webpages, and social media. Generic stock photography often misses the mark when it comes to diversity so it’s important to incorporate and represent all body types, all skin colors, all genders, and people of all ages. Going one step further, consider organizing a photoshoot with people you know so your clients and patients can easily identify with your practice. The intention is for the Asian mother bringing her young Asian son who is Autistic to your office to feel more included and understood, as opposed to when only white parents and white children are advertised.

Lastly, review who and what is supplying your organization’s goods and services. This in and of itself improves diversity reach. Typically, if you own a business, you seek the lowest rate—which is important for the bottom line. However, be mindful of whom you are going into business with. Seek businesses that are minority-owned and women-owned. For example, one panelist shared about choosing a black-owned bakery to cater an office party because she knew his business was struggling. What may seem like a small thing can add up and be consequential.

3. Translating Web Pages

Translating web pages into multiple languages makes your website and business more accessible. Your patients and clients, most likely, do not all speak English, and so you automatically reach new audiences by expanding your translation services. The same mindset goes when it comes to YouTube closed captioning. Improve your reach by adding text to video.

4. Culture and Diversity Training

Cultural and diversity training programs should be mandatory and held, at the very least, annually, allowing organizations to have greater oversight and consistent training standards. Everyone within an organization must be dedicated to embracing diversity. Managers should attend diversity training as well and not just assign their employees to do so. Make training programs interactive and link the mission of the organization with its culture. Trainings create opportunities and space for reflection, discussion, goal setting, and self-awareness.

You can develop cultural awareness skills by hiring a behavior analyst to speak about and make people aware of their own biases and privileges. It is important to recognize the culture in which you grew up and how you view the world not the only way of being. Ask questions of the people with whom you’re working; don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions, as long as it’s done respectfully.

5. Recruiting

Employment recruiting practices must be more inclusive as well. Recruiters and HR tend to hire those who are more similar to themselves. However diverse teams help companies be more innovative and creative, yielding better results. Consider holding blind interviews. In doing so, your organization will get to the heart of a candidate: what does she or he really feel and think? Look past appearance and cultural limitation to find out who someone really is.

The process toward increased diversity is first identifying areas in which your organization is lacking and then working to create systems that address those inconsistencies and weaknesses. Use measurements to assess your own diversity, know where you’re starting from to determine your baseline, and then track your progress. Anyone who can be materially impacted by these standards has a voice and should contribute to the discussion.

As business owners, you can’t fix what you don’t know is a problem. The panelists encouraged people to realize you don’t have to be an owner to have a voice; everybody has a voice. Team members must feel comfortable speaking up and sharing. This is the way we make effective, lasting change. Be realistic and set goals for what you can change and accomplish.

On behalf of BHCOE, we’re thankful to Hellen and Elizabeth for their time and insightful perspectives on Standards for Diversity.

Stay current on issues affecting the ABA community by attending upcoming BHCOE webinars at


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