Sistering recognizes that the core challenge with respect to diversity work is not simply a matter of access and inclusion for communities and stakeholders traditionally marginalized based on gender, sexual orientation, race, economic status, language ability, religion preference, age and ability.
Issues of power and privilege and underlying, often unspoken, ideologies of domination and subordination often reinforce and maintain our organizational hierarchies, even when actors change.
Diversity is a broad term that refers to the variety of differences among people. Diversity is commonly understood to include differences based on race, age, place of origin, religion, ancestry, Aboriginal status, skin colour, citizenship, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, disability/ability, marital, parental or family status, same-sex partnership status, creed, language, educational background, literacy level, geographic location, income level, cultural tradition, and work experience, but is not limited to these (2).
The principles of inclusion involve a clear recognition that society is not homogenous and diversity is enriching, not a problem. The policy recognizes that ideas and practices based on, or modeled after, norms of dominant culture or society can result in exclusion and discrimination for a number of people in society. Inclusion in an organization requires a strategic process to eliminate barriers and implement change that is based on accepting that many people do not have access to services, jobs and positions of leadership because of societal and systemic factors rather than because of personal deficiencies. This process includes the active and meaningful involvement of people who reflect the diverse groups within a community (3).
Oppression occurs when a group (or groups) of individuals uses one or more forms of power to suppress another group (or groups) in order to maintain or improve their own economic or social position. Oppression can be overt, for example the use of police or other bodies to repress a group of individuals, or covert, woven through the social institutions, social relationships and group interactions of everyday life.
Sistering recognizes that a combination of factors and approaches informs an effective anti-oppression and diversity framework. These include knowledge of cultural dynamics, understanding legal responsibilities and recognition of the impact of diversity on organizational effectiveness. An anti-oppression framework, implemented through culturally competent practice, further recognizes when core cultural and institutional structures ought to change and that changes in our personal attitudes are critical as well. It explicitly examines power relationships and sees the parallels, intersections and distinctions between all forms of oppression and the ways in which they manifest themselves. Anti-oppression also recognizes dominant group privilege and internalized oppression and sees the overlap and distinctions between both.