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AARP Leader Rawle Andrews, Jr.: Diversity and Inclusion Are Vital To Success

Organizations intent on thriving in the 21st Century should keep one direction and pace in mind concerning diversity and inclusion.

Full speed ahead.

That, at least, is the call to action from Rawle Andrews Jr, an AARP regional vice president for the seven most-populous states in the country, known as “Mega 7,” who spoke Tuesday (Oct. 20) at a virtual conference on aging and innovation hosted by the AustinUp organization and sponsored by AARP Texas.

“The only way we’re going to unravel what’s become the Rubik’s Cube of diversity and inclusion in the Covid era is to recognize that we have to start with cultural humility and work our way along the continuum to cultural competency,” said Andrews. “Where are we going to be 100 years from now as a people? It’s our job in 2020 to make sure there is a story to be told.”

Organizations seeking to reach diversity and inclusion goals should conduct an audit of their strengths and weaknesses, Andrews said.

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“What I want to encourage all of you to do is an exercise that I have tried to do,” he said. “Go back to your workplace and construct the resume of your entire team. Take names out of the question. But look at where you are, where you were and where you hope to be. From there, you start isolating some gaps that you might be able to plug in as you look at hiring practices, as you look at philanthropy and civic engagement opportunities. But do that agency resume.”

Too often, Andrews said, organizations are caught off-guard in efforts to broaden and strengthen their teams.  “When there is a time of crisis, that’s when we most value diversity and inclusion,” he said.

Diversity includes an age-diverse workforce, Andrews suggested, pointing out that a host of demographic changes suggest that our global, national and local populations are aging. Each day, he said, about 1 million people on the planet turn 60. What’s more, the person who will be first to live to 150 is likely already born and is between the ages now of 7 and 10.

Andrews said there’s economic strength in our aging population. Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), he said, account for $7.7 trillion in annual spending in this country. And the economic output of those Boomers, he said, amounts to what would be the third-largest economy in the world. And in Texas alone, the economic output of Texans age 50-plus, he said, is $647 Billion.

“Fifty cents of every dollar spent in Texas is spent by someone 50 and older,” said Andrews, who also is a Houston resident and an attorney.

Andrews’ remarks capped off the first of a two-day annual conference held by AustinUp, a community alliance that works on issues important to Central Texas’ older population, and which is a frequent partner and collaborator with AARP in Austin. Joining Andrews during the conversation was Tabitha Taylor, the City of Austin’s age-friendly coordinator.

Andrews said AARP is contributing in numerous ways to communities, including in Austin, which is on the AARP Network of Age Friendly Communities. For instance, AARP is distributing $2.4 million this year to fund 184 quick-action projects across the country, helping urban, rural and suburban communities make immediate improvements and jumpstarting progress through what’s known as AARP Community Challenge grants. Five projects in Texas were awarded Community Challenge grants, including an Austin project.

But efforts to improve organizations and communities ought not get hung up on questions about the cost of making reforms, Andrews contends.

“Too often, we get caught up on the sticker price,” he said. “The question is not the cost. The question is the value to the community. If we focus on the value, some of the things we want to see happen will happen.”

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