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Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) Policy on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

GSA Board of Directors approved August 27, 2021

Prelude

The Gerontological Society of America (hereinafter referred to as the “Society”) is more than 75 years old. Our Society serves as a voice for advancing the study of aging. We recognize the need to be intentional in our actions to achieve our highest ideals. For these reasons, we make an active and conscious effort to challenge racism and discrimination in any form and view this as central to our ideals of creating an, equitable, diverse, and inclusive Society that promotes meaningful lives for all as we age.

Policy

GSA will embed diversity, equity, and inclusion as fundamental principles and practices across the Society to:

  1. Embrace an inclusive membership culture that recognizes and values all backgrounds, voices, roles, and contributions
  2. Cultivate practices that build a culturally inclusive workforce, empowered, and supported to carry out the principles of equity, and inclusion
  3. Foster research practices to include a culturally inclusive workforce in the development and implementation of research on aging to achieve health equity
  4. Ensure that people from underrepresented, disproportionately affected and marginalized communities thrive in our Society as researchers, educators, policy makers, practitioners, learners, and students
  5. Hold ourselves accountable for developing diverse and inclusive groups and teams, making decisions equitably and transparently, and modeling inclusive behaviors
  6. Strive to have our Society better reflect the members and communities we serve

We will hold fast to our vision: meaningful lives for all as we age, and that all individuals will have the opportunity to live healthy and productive lives and be treated with justice, humanity, dignity, and respect.

Definitions and Commitments

Diversity: We define diversity as a comprehensive compilation of ages, cultures, ideas, people and traditions providing the opportunity to learn at the intersection of this collection of individuals. Our Society values the richness of identities in all areas, including age, race, national origin, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, beliefs, and perspectives. We are committed to having our community better reflect the members and communities we serve.

Equity: We define equity as fairness or justice in the way we treat and value people. Due to the historical discrimination against, and ongoing oppression of, specific communities, effort is required to ensure an equitable organization. In our approach to equity, we are committed to ensuring that people from marginalized communities thrive in our Society as researchers, educators, policy makers, practitioners, and students. Further, we are committed to understanding and identifying how privilege interacts with oppression based on multiply-held identities as a key to achieving equitable outcomes in all of our Society’s programs and activities.

Inclusion: We define inclusion as the act or practice of intentionally including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded. Ensuring that we value and actively address the experiences of people who are marginalized and ignored is critical to achieving equity. Justice goes a step further and requires us to correct previous structural, systemic, and personal wrongs. As the preeminent interdisciplinary gerontological association, we are committed to using our influence and resources to make essential changes to ensure that all programs and activities of our Society are just and inclusive.


Diversity and Justice Working Group

GSA has created a Diversity and Justice Working Group whose purpose is to make tangible and actionable recommendations to GSA’s Board of Directors for short-term outcomes to increase diversity and inclusion among the membership of GSA.

As established by former GSA Board Chair President Kathryn Hyer, MPP, PhD, FGSA, FAGHE, in 2020, this ad hoc committee will review existing and suggest new internal policies and practices that should be implemented to both improve the organization’s ability to meet the needs of its members and to bolster the contributions the society can make for addressing the needs of older adults.

Additionally, longer-term strategic suggestions for how to increase the external societal impact will be welcomed as products from the working group.

GSA has a tradition of supporting an inclusive environment in aging research, education, and practice. Since 1987, the organization has been guided by a Minority Issues in Gerontology Advisory Panel, which seeks to increase the quantity and quality of research related to minority aging issues and to attract minority members in Society activities and governance.

Current Activities

GSA is in the process of implementing ongoing short- and long-term recommendations from the Diversity and Justice Working Group.

To diversify GSA leadership and governing bodies, we are securing a DEI consultant, requiring diversity statements from leadership position candidates, and building accountability into section chair reporting.

To broaden representation in the membership, we are requiring race, ethnicity, and gender fields as part of the membership process, enhancing our outreach efforts to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and elevating the Minority Issues in Gerontology Advisory Panel’s James Jackson Outstanding Mentorship Award.

To foster opportunities for conversations on race and gender dynamics in academic, practice, and community spaces, we are expanding our education programming through ESPO webinars on social justice and a new Annual Scientific Meeting session topic on social and health equity, diversity, and inclusion.

To increase the representation of racial/ethnic minority scholars in our industry-leading journals, we are increasing the diversity of topics of our manuscripts and scholarship, and developing opportunities for special issues and guest editors from marginalized groups.

Diversity and Justice Working Group Roster

  • Roland Thorpe, PhD, FGSA, Johns Hopkins University (Chair)
  • Adrienne Aiken-Morgan, PhD, North Carolina A&T State University
  • James Appleby, BSPharm, MPH, ScD (Hon), The Gerontological Society of America
  • Kalisha Bonds, BSN, MSN, PhD, Emory University
  • Kristen Cloyes, MSN, PhD, RN, University of Utah
  • Carl V. Hill, PhD, MPH, Alzhiemer’s Association
  • Yuri Jang, PhD, FGSA, University of Southern California
  • Emerald Jenkins, MSN, Johns Hopkins University
  • Peter Lichtenberg, PhD, FGSA, Wayne State University
  • Charles Mouton, MD, FGSA, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
  • Ronica Rooks, PhD, FGSA, University of Colorado, Denver
  • Tetyana Shippee, PhD, FGSA, University of Minnesota
  • Elizabeth Vasquez, DrPH, University at Albany
  • Robert Weech-Maldonado, PhD, FGSA, University of Alabama at Birmingham

GSA Statements

Aging Researchers Call for Inclusion, Justice, and Equality (June 3, 2020)

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — joins in solidarity with the movement to condemn the entrenched racism undermining American society and promote equal rights for all.

The latest in a long history of terrible and senseless deaths of Black Americans serves as another reminder of the pervasive nature of racism in our culture and the profoundly negative impact that this has on people of color.

This is a public health crisis that must be addressed immediately. Minority groups represent the fastest growing segment of the older adult population. As a non-partisan, professional membership organization of experts in the aging field, GSA member scientists have thoroughly documented the racial health disparities experienced by people of color across the life course. These disparities extend to physical health, psychological health, and financial health. All members of society deserve the opportunity to live in safe environments and have access to quality health care.

GSA is proud to uphold its tradition of supporting an inclusive environment in aging research, education, and practice. Since 1987, the organization has been guided by a Minority Issues in Gerontology Advisory Panel, which seeks to increase the quantity and quality of research related to minority aging issues and to attract minority members in Society activities and governance.

Today, GSA continues to contribute to efforts to include older adults and people of color in clinical research. It publishes research in its journals about the impact of discrimination as we age. It provides support for minority scholars to participate in the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting, where it also highlights research on minority topics. And it supports the work of minority journalists covering aging issues. GSA also partners with the National Institute on Aging’s Butler-Williams Scholars Program, which is designed to encourage emerging researchers into aging research, with a special focus on those from underrepresented minorities.

GSA will move forward with all these efforts as we seek to develop further understanding of, and solutions to, the toll that racism is taking on American society. It will support the dissemination of evidence to eliminate systemic issues that increase the disparities that negatively impact health and well-being. These efforts will not just be directed externally, but internally as well — recognizing that every organization, GSA included, must actively strive to free itself from conscious and unconscious discrimination and bias that undermines our collective well-being. GSA calls on all of its members to contribute to the development of long-term goals for addressing racism and its surrounding issues.

And GSA stands with those who condemn institutional racism and supports their first amendment rights to advocate safer, better lives for Black Americans and other marginalized groups. It stands with members and organizational partners pushing to create lasting change for inclusion, justice, and equality.

The Minority Issues in Gerontology Advisory Panel Calls for Action (June 5, 2020)

The Minority Issues in Gerontology Advisory Panel of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) stands in solidarity with all who are grieving and exercising their right to protest the losses of Black lives at the hands of racism and discrimination in the United States. We appreciate and echo our Society’s call for inclusion, justice, and equality for all. Further, we agree with our Society’s call for the development of long-term goals that address racism, conscious and unconscious discrimination, and bias – both within and outside of our Society.

We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that this call to action is not new. Our founding members, of what was first known as the “Task Force,” pushed our Society towards a greater level of inclusion over 30 years ago:

"Dr. E. Percil Stanford, leaders of the SRPP section, and the executive director and council members of the GSA (and members from other GSA sections) collectively proposed a GSA-wide task force on minority aging issues. This task force would extend beyond the recognition and commitment from the SRPP’s Task Committee on Minority Issues. In 1987, the planning committee of the SRPP Task Committee on Minority Issues prepared and submitted a proposal to the GSA’s council requesting the inauguration of the GSA Task Force on Minority Issues. The long-standing goals of this task force were to increase the following: (a) quantity and quality of gerontological research on minority aging, (b) number of minority researchers in gerontology, and (c) participation of minority members in the society (L. K. Harootyan, personal communication, September 9, 2012)."

Excerpted from: Brown, C.S., Baker, T. A., Mingo, C., Harden, J. T., Whitfield, K. E., Aiken-Morgan, A. T., Phillips, K., & Washington, T. (2014). A review of our roots: Blacks in gerontology. The Gerontologist: “Remembering our Roots” Special Issue, 54 (1), 108-116.

Standing on the shoulders of Dr. E. Percil Stanford and the many other GSA members who have come before us, we, as the Minority Issues in Gerontology Advisory Panel of GSA, remain steadfast in our commitment to stand against racism and discrimination, structural inequalities and inequities, and social injustices perpetuated against Black communities – and all racial/ethnic minority communities – within GSA and our respective institutions and communities.

As such, we resolve to promote the following as next steps on a path forward in these challenging times:

  • To foster opportunities for conversations on race dynamics in academic, practice, and community spaces, which have the potential of great and far-reaching impact within GSA, care settings, and our respective institutions. Such conversations could be organized at annual meetings and virtually throughout the year.
  • To expose our Society’s blind spots related to the lived experiences of individuals who live at the intersection of race and aging. It is imperative to understand that the journey to antiracism is undergirded by making conscious decisions (i.e., a radical reorientation) to become aware of actions and ideas that perpetuate racism and its negative consequences (Kendi, 2019).
  • To partner with GSA leadership teams to develop short- (e.g., special issues in GSA journals on minority aging, structural inequities, and racism) and long-term plans of action with attention to restructuring resource allocation to address social injustices and inequities (e.g. antiracist and anti-bias interventions).
  • To increase the representation of racial/ethnic minority scholars on the GSA Board of Directors, journal editorial boards, and other leadership positions.
  • To garner tangible support for the advancement (i.e., successful completion of doctoral training; tenure & promotion) of early career racial/ethnic minority scholars, who are of critical importance to the fulfillment of our cause.
  • To continue promoting scholarship, teaching, and service that highlight the social, economic, and healthcare injustices experienced by marginalized groups across the life course.

We believe that, together, we will make great strides towards inclusion, justice, and equality for Black Americans – and us all.

GSA Advocates Racial Justice, Decries Anti-Democratic Violence (January 18, 2021)

As Washington, DC, and state capitols prepare for a possible second wave of violence this week, The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — again stands with those who condemn anti-democratic riots, white supremacist movements, and racial discrimination.

The current attempts to prevent the legitimate, peaceful transition of power are antithetical to the values Americans hold most dear. Further, the initial law enforcement response to the insurrectionary assaults of January 6 also stands in stark contrast to the more aggressive response to diverse, peaceful protests against racial injustice in 2020 — further demonstrating the systemic racism present in American society that GSA is committed to addressing.

This unfolding episode is another reminder that there exists a public health crisis brought about by such entrenched racism, and that a great deal of work remains to defeat it. GSA is dedicated to improving the lives of people of all backgrounds as we age. Its member scientists have thoroughly documented disparities experienced by people of color across the life course — encompassing physical health, psychological health, and financial health, and many more dimensions. These disparities have been compounded by the scourge of COVID-19.

GSA stands ready to be a resource to the incoming administration and Congress on policies that address race and aging. Through the recently established GSA Diversity and Justice Working Group, the organization also will continue to advance initiatives that increase diversity and inclusion within the gerontological community of scholars.

GSA will move forward with all these efforts as we seek to develop further understanding of, and solutions to, the toll that racism is taking on American society. It will support the dissemination of evidence to eliminate systemic issues that increase the disparities that negatively impact health and well-being.

Denouncing Anti-AAPI Hatred, GSA Reiterates Commitment to Fighting Discrimination (March 23, 2021)

As the U.S. again confronts the catastrophic consequences of racially motivated hate, The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — joins with all who condemn violence, racism, sexism, and ageism targeting the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Individuals of AAPI background have been increasingly made targets of acts of hatred, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and punctuated most recently by murders in the Atlanta area. Such crimes contribute to a public health crisis that must be addressed by every sector of society.

Minority groups represent the fastest growing segment of the older adult population. And GSA member scientists have well documented disparities experienced by people of color across the life course — encompassing physical health, psychological health, financial health, and more. But all people deserve the opportunity to live in safe environments and have access to quality health care, free of discrimination.

Recognizing that biases — whether driven by race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, profession, or many other dimensions — are antithetical to GSA’s core values, the organization established a Diversity and Justice Working Group in 2020. This member-led body of experts is spearheading efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within the gerontological community of scholars, and in society more broadly.

Today we are reminded that this work to produce lasting change is more important than ever. Through its commitment to research, education, policy, and practice in aging, GSA pledges to be an ally to federal, state, and local government entities, businesses, educational institutions, professional societies, and coalitions in taking swift and direct action against acts of hate and discrimination toward AAPI individuals and all minorities.

GSA Issues Statement Following Verdict in George Floyd Case (April 21, 2021)

With a conviction for the murder of George Floyd, the U.S. observes a milestone on its long and difficult march toward racial justice. And The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is reaffirming its solidarity with those acting to bring about sustainable change in rooting out the entrenched racism undermining American society and promoting equal rights for all.

GSA stands with other leading organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Medical Association in recognizing racism as a public health threat. As minority groups make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, GSA member scientists have frequently identified the many disparities individuals in these groups experience over the life course, across many dimensions.

The pervasive prejudices in this nation — and their measurably negative impact on minorities — have often been visible within our system of law enforcement but they are not unique to it. Every institution has a role to play in holding itself accountable for eliminating conscious and unconscious discrimination and bias, which undermine our collective well-being.

The senseless killings of Floyd and other Black individuals nearly a year ago served as the catalyst to launch or accelerate diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives nationwide. Although the public health threat of racism continues, the outcome in Floyd’s case has the potential to provide a similar momentum for those who have a renewed sense of hope that change is possible.

GSA remains dedicated to the cause of dismantling systemic racism and — through its commitment to research, education, policy, and practice in aging — serving as a partner in efforts to achieve justice for all members of society.

GSA Condemns Rise in Antisemitic Activities (June 25, 2021)

In the wake of acts of hatred against Jewish communities in the U.S. and abroad, The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is speaking out against antisemitism in all forms.

Antisemitism and other biases that are driven by ethnicity, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical appearance, disability or physical/mental health status, age, religion, profession, culture, national origin, or many other dimensions are against GSA’s commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

A new survey from the Anti-Defamation League’s found that 63 percent of American Jews had experienced or witnessed antisemitism over the past five years, up 10 percent from the same period reported last year. This has been followed by a spike in May 2021 that included vandalism of businesses, museums, and synagogues, and threats and attacks upon individuals and families.

The pervasive prejudices in this nation and their measurably negative impact on minorities across the life course have often been documented by GSA member researchers.

GSA remains dedicated to improving the lives of people of all backgrounds as we age. Through its commitment to research, education, policy, and practice in aging, GSA pledges to be an ally to federal, state, and local government entities, businesses, educational institutions, professional societies, and coalitions in taking swift and direct action against acts of hate and discrimination toward Jewish individuals and all minorities.

 

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