Written By: Rebecca Wiggins
Each year, the AFCPE symposium feels like a celebration of our collective growth and impact, and a chance to reconnect to our mission and to one another. The excitement and passion of our professionals is inspiring and contagious. You would be hard pressed to find another organization full of such passionate, dynamic professionals with shared commitment to such an important mission.
This year, our theme for the symposium was Connect, Empower, Impact. These three simple words reflect the crucial role and unique power that AFCPE professionals play in our field and in critical national issues that impact financial security. They express the responsibility we have as individuals and as an organization in addressing systemic and societal problems that plague the economic security of people across our nation; issues like consumer protection, increasing rates of debt and financial instability, skyrocketing student loan debt, and income and wealth inequality, particularly focused on race and gender.
Eliminating these gaps is critical to ensure that all people are economically secure. That’s why we continue to focus on these issues in our professional development offerings and symposium program. This year, the symposium kicked off with a panel discussion on the racial wealth divide. It was a follow up from our 2017 keynote session with a working group that has been meeting to discuss promising practices for the role our profession plays in closing this gap. The panelists discussed key systemic issues and historical framework for racial inequality. They stressed the importance of first, taking time to understand how the compounding generational impacts of our history have not only shaped our clients’ mindsets and experiences, but also our own. Then, we can work to challenge our own biases, assumptions, and the limiting beliefs we have about a client’s experience, income level, or wealth.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just trendy buzz words that seem to be part of every conference program these days. Rather, they must be a constant and essential lens, beyond one training or conference, for the work we do. Principles of equity, justice, and inclusion, are foundational to AFCPE’s mission and vision to ensure that all people, regardless of income and background, are empowered to achieve lasting financial well-being through the highest standards of financial counseling, coaching, and education.
To that end, this year, the members of our Diversity and Inclusion Task Force put together an important toolkit to help further these discussions, and established a definition as our organizational guidepost:
“Diversity and inclusion ensure a safe, positive, nurturing, and tolerant environment with mutual respect, free of prejudice. They celebrate differences, including those visible and invisible, in addition to thoughts and opinions that are essential for the involvement and empowerment of our society.”
Efforts to eliminate discrimination and oppression tend to start with a focus on race because it is not only the most visible way to divide people, but it also has the deepest roots in our country’s history and systems. Our definition expands the lens even further to include those with differing abilities, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status and encourages us to challenge our assumptions and biases about one another.
This definition serves as a starting point to more intentionally guide the Board and Staff as we dig deeper into how we can expand access, make our intentions actionable, and ultimately create accountability for continued progress towards these ideals. This includes analyzing internal policies and procedures, embedding an equity screen for decision-making, and implementing changes to our hiring practices and Board nomination process. Equity and inclusion work is messy, complicated, and sometimes painful work. We will make mistakes along the way, but remain committed to convening these important conversations, learning, and growing together.
The AFCPE Table is much more than the Board and Staff — that’s why we need your voice to ensure that your unique perspectives and experiences are included in the discussions and that we understand and better serve your needs. Please consider getting involved in a Task Force where you can help inform programs and policy that will enhance our organization and impact our field. As Dyalekt shared during the opening session panel on the racial wealth divide, “responsibility is our ability to respond.”
Raise your AFCPE voice. Share your ideas. We are listening. Together, we will help more people achieve financial security and positively impact systems of inequality in our country.