From the CEO

This past August I, along with several APA staff members, participated in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington (see related column by Dr. Gwendolyn Keita). Thousands of participants stood and sat on the Washington Mall and heard many inspiring speeches (one by President Obama) about our nation's progress and ongoing challenges in civil rights, equality, and diversity. As I listened to these speeches, I reflected on our association's own progress in becoming an organization that is itself reflective of the goals and aspirations of the civil rights movement.

Social justice, diversity and inclusion

The APA strategic plan, approved in 2009, includes "social justice, diversity, and inclusion" as one of its five core values. Indeed, the association has a long history of adopting policies that oppose discrimination and support diversity, fostering the inclusion at all APA levels of ethnic minorities, women, older adults, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and people with disabilities. As early as 1950, APA endorsed a policy that prohibited us from hosting meetings in venues that discriminated on the basis of race or religion. In more recent years, APA has opposed bias against same-sex couples (2004), condemned hate crimes (2005) and disparaged any expressions of prejudice (2006).

To gauge our success in cultivating diversity, in 2005 APA's then-President, Ronald Levant, PhD, appointed a Task Force on Enhancing Diversity chaired by APA Past President Richard M. Suinn, PhD. After conducting a thorough analysis of APA's policies, programs and activities, the task force issued a report confirming that "APA has been evolving as an organization that seeks to be welcoming to diversity."

But the report also identified areas for improvement. For example, the percentage of ethnic minorities who were APA members had not changed over the years, despite increases in the U.S. population. Also, women and ethnic minorities continued to be underrepresented in the awards that APA gives annually.   

To address those and other problems, APA's Council of Representatives directed me to develop a Diversity Implementation Plan to ensure that diversity is an integral part of APA's structures and activities. Last summer, I shared with the council a report on the progress we have made in meeting our five goals. They are to:

  • Enhance the "welcomeness" of APA to diverse groups. This includes increasing the diversity of APA's membership and improving access to leadership opportunities for people of diverse groups. One of our greatest successes in this area is attracting more minorities to APA governance. Overall, the percentage of minorities in all APA governance — including its, council, boards and committees — rose from 14 percent in 1996 to 24 percent in 2012. (For another example of an APA program that brings more minorities to psychology governance, see "Wanted: More diversity in psychology governance" on page 38.)
  • Promote recognition of the value of diversity in APA policies, publications and programs. APA produces a wealth of publications that focus in part or whole on diversity issues, from magazines, such as the Monitor, to a variety of newsletters, including In the Public Interest, which addresses all of the diversity issues with APA's Public Interest Directorate and Communique News Journal, a quarterly e-publication on issues relevant to people of color.
  • Enhance access to, and encourage participation by, diverse groups in APA activities. Our work under this goal ranges from ensuring that people with disabilities can attend all APA meetings to giving travel awards to international psychologists to help offset their expenses to attend APA meetings so that we can benefit from their different perspectives.
  • Expand support for diversity in psychology education and the training of future psychologists. To meet this goal, APA produces such resources as lesson plans for K–12 teachers of psychology, our Guidelines for Undergraduate Psychology Majors, Minority Fellowship Program Psychology Summer Institute, Advanced Training Institutes on Research Methods with Diverse Racial and Ethnic Groups and supports numerous recruitment efforts.
  • Promote diversity in psychological research and practice. Among our activities in this area are several aimed at increasing the diversity in psychological research topics and methodologies and APA practice guidelines that address working with diverse clients.

A full list of the ways in which we foster diversity at APA — 90 pages in all — appears online. This report is a snapshot of our current efforts to cultivate diversity at APA — and we look forward to adding to it.