A growing demand for diversity trainers is giving U.S. social workers an exciting career opportunity.
An important aspect of being a social worker is the ability to demonstrate social and cultural sensitivity toward clients. With the U.S. undergoing significant demographic and cultural change, diversity concern is no longer limited to race and gender. It also involves the social welfare and empowerment of people who identify with a specific religion, marital status, disability, sexual identity and more.
This has led to a growing demand for social workers who can conduct diversity training. This specialty helps people gain cultural awareness and understanding for the benefit of their associations, which may include businesses, schools and colleges, the military, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations.
What does it take to become a diversity trainer? What skills and qualifications do social workers require to get involved in this area?
Why Cultural Competence Matters
Being a diversity trainer requires a strong awareness of how different populations experience their own uniqueness, and how that affects their social experiences. According to current National Association of Social Work (NASW) Cultural Standards, this awareness can be achieved by examining cultural intersectionality: How interactions between race, class, gender and other factors can result in discrimination or disadvantage within certain groups.
Diversity has been a key public issue since the civil rights movement began in the 1950s. Many advances have been made in protecting the rights and dignity of African Americans, women, gays and lesbians and other minority groups.
Increases in immigration have also been a factor. According to Pew Research, the 2016 election has the most diverse electorate in history – in large part due to an expansion of the Latino vote. The unique cultural, language, religious and political backgrounds of each individual – whether U.S. or foreign born – is an opportunity for people within all fields of social work practice to test and grow their skills.
What kind of role can social work play in addressing race relations? Find out here.
Gaining the Skills
As stated in the NASW Cultural Standards, gaining cultural competence needed to be a diversity trainer is an ongoing process which requires the social worker to “acknowledge their own position of power” in relation to clients and practice cultural humility.
The NASW also recommends social workers seek to challenge the societal structures that cause oppression and marginalization, by getting involved in community organization, public education and political action.
Social workers who are skilled in recognizing and acting on cultural differences will be able to apply this knowledge in their work. This is essential when dealing with clients who need specialized support that extends beyond standard social services – such as refugees and children adopted from different cultures. Such expertise can promote diversity and freedom from harassment within the workplace.
Although most colleges don’t offer a “diversity degree,” there are a range of majors and minors within a Master’s of Social Work degree that can help students pursue a career as a diversity trainer. Women’s studies, for example, can be useful in helping employers avoid workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. Cultural studies and sociology give social workers insight to guide the integration of different cultures in the workplace.
There are multiple opportunities to volunteer and participate in organizations that promote and celebrate diversity. These include multicultural awareness groups, women’s support groups, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ+) support organizations and refugee advocacy services.
The career outlook of social workers with diversity training is highly positive. As the U.S. population becomes ever more inclusive and multicultural, social workers with specializations in diversity training will play an important role in helping to reduce discrimination, promote the benefits of diversity and improve relations among people of all races and cultures.
Culturally competent social workers are able to achieve better outcomes in cross-cultural situations. Ensure you deliver the best outcomes for your clients, no matter their backgrounds, with skill development and an advanced degree.