Proposed Leadership Structure Changes to Build DEI Capacity

Over the last year, Pi Beta Phi has made diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) a strategic priority through several initiatives across specialty areas. Through this work, it has become evident that the Fraternity must increase capacity within the leadership structure in order to align the Pi Beta Phi experience with our Commitment to DEI. Exploring how to build capacity for DEI work began with the implementation of a piloted Director Diversity/Inclusion in Fall 2020 and has evolved as future strategic work has become clear. As a result, Grand Council has put forth a legislative proposal to incorporate DEI-focused roles into our chapter and volunteer officer structures.

At this summer’s convention, delegates will vote on legislation proposed by Grand Council which requires all chapters elect two new chapter officers: a Vice President Inclusion and a Director Community Inclusion. The new officers will be supported by an additional member of the Alumnae Advisory Committee (AAC). Grand Council will also propose revising the responsibilities of the current Grand Vice President Community Relations and rename the role Grand Vice President Inclusion. This Grand Council member will oversee the Fraternity’s existing Community Relations team as well as a new Specialty Director, the Director Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and nine new Specialists serving on Regional Teams, titled Inclusion Specialists.

This new team of leaders are expected to be phased in during Fall 2021, between convention and the start of the 2022 officer term. Anticipated position descriptions are linked below. View the proposed structure here.

Below are answers to questions you may have about these proposed legislative changes.

General Fraternity Structure Questions

Over the course of the last year, Pi Phi has been looking closely at how to effectively respond to DEI needs and support our chapters in their efforts. Careful evaluation has shown that more capacity is needed to ensure DEI is a lens that is applied across all areas of the Pi Phi experience. In addition to new roles, it has been evident that intentional placement of DEI-focused positions is necessary to aid in the integration of this work within different types of teams in the Pi Phi structure.

As a membership-based organization, the individual member is always a focus, especially when it comes to ensuring a sisterhood where everyone is welcomed, supported and knows they belong. Focusing on inclusion first ensures there are no barriers for members to fully engage, which allows for more productive DEI efforts overall.

Pi Beta Phi recently defined key terms related to our DEI efforts. Pi Beta Phi defines inclusion as being welcomed and truly valued for what you contribute. Pi Beta Phi desires to create an environment where all members feel they have a voice, are valued, feel validated and can fully participate. 

Yes, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee will continue to exist in the new structure. The added Specialty Director, the Director Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, will be the chair of this committee. Whereas the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisor Committee serves in an advisory and strategic capacity, the proposed leadership positions will be more operational in nature.

After significant evaluation, it has been determined that this role allows for the greatest capacity to make DEI a priority for a Grand Council member. DEI must be a focus and lens through which we look at work across all specialty areas, however the ties between DEI, communication and philanthropy are clear. Inclusion can be the act of bringing communities together. Intentional communication presents an opportunity for Pi Phi to create inclusion through outreach, bringing all members into these efforts. DEI will be an important lens to evolving our philanthropic efforts for the betterment of society. Pairing this work with communication and philanthropy will allow Pi Beta Phi to evolve these areas to be more inclusive and relevant.

Due to the pandemic, Pi Phi chapter leadership implemented their roles through adjustments in small and large ways this past year. As a result, the Fraternity did not feel there was enough information to make long-term changes to other areas of the structure at this time. Effectiveness of officer roles is always monitored and observation during future years could result in updates if needed.

COLLEGIATE Questions

Adding chapter leaders focused on DEI into the Chapter Leadership Team will allow for increased capacity to implement DEI initiatives and embed DEI into all aspects of the member experience. As the Fraternity looked at how to create an organizational culture that aligns with our Commitment to DEI, it was evident that chapter positions at both the Executive Council and full Chapter Leadership Team levels were necessary.

Over the course of the pilot in 2020, participating chapters were asked to complete regular position evaluations. These evaluations assessed how well the position was impacting chapter engagement in DEI and collected information about tools and resources needed to complete the position responsibilities effectively. In addition to participant evaluations, a series of virtual meetings allowed for qualitative information to be gathered. Through this data collection, Pi Phi learned:
  • It can be a challenge, and even a burden, to be the only chapter leader with DEI-specific position responsibilities.
  • Limited experience of Director-level leaders created a gap in navigating approval processes, collaborative opportunities, and strategic decisions in the chapter.
  • Directors were most successful when their Vice President and advisor counterparts shared the ownership of DEI efforts.
  • Directors collaborated across all specialty areas, but the closest tie was with the Director PR/Marketing incorporating DEI into social media, as members absorbed information over social media in new ways in 2020.

The team that designed this proposal included volunteers from the Community Relations team, Member Experience team, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee and Headquarters staff. A former Collegiate Regional Director also served on the team. Feedback from the Director Diversity/Inclusion pilot, chapter leaders and advisors, other Fraternity officers and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee was reviewed and incorporated. The feedback gathered from these groups will also be used as implementation plans continue to be developed.

Chapters will slate and elect a Vice President Inclusion (VPI) and Director Community Inclusion (DCI) during the Fall 2021 election cycle for the 2022 officer term. Prior to elections and installation, an AAC Inclusion Advisor will be identified to support this team. Details about how this AAC counterpart will be placed are still in development.

Within this proposed model, chapters would be required to elect a VPI and a DCI. Chapters may request dispensation annually from the Regional Team to implement a compact model officer structure that allows them to scale some Director positions. If a chapter were to be approved for a compact model that did not include a DCI, those position responsibilities would shift to the VPI as they do with other teams in the chapter.

The Fraternity believes there are many advantages to having an Inclusion team in the chapter. For many chapters, we know there is plenty of need for more than one officer in a DEI-focused role. Additionally, the position descriptions are designed to intentionally divide responsibilities so that each officer can focus on different elements of embedding DEI into the chapter experience. Having a team of leaders for DEI reinforces the idea that this work is not a one-person-show nor can be done in a silo, but is best done in collaboration with others. Finally, pairing a Vice President and Director on the Inclusion team provides opportunities for leadership development for both; it allows the Vice President to develop critical delegation and mentorship skills and for a Director-level leader to gain experience that can be applied to future leadership roles.

Both the proposed positions, the Vice President Inclusion (VPI) and Director Community Inclusion (DCI), are slated and elected during the chapter’s normal election cycle.

Yes! Should this legislation pass at convention, the VPI and DCI will have similar training materials as other Vice Presidents and Directors. Additionally, manuals and guides in the Resource Library will be updated or developed before officers are placed in these roles.

If your chapter does not already have a member serving as a Director Diversity/Inclusion, it is highly recommended that this role is incorporated into the Chapter Leadership Team immediately. This will allow your chapter to experiment and learn best practices for implementing DEI initiatives before a full Inclusion team is elected. During this time, a special focus on defining, exploring and embracing an inclusive member experience could help your chapter be prepared to flourish within this new leadership model.

AACs will be critical to the success of this new structure and as a result, will need to be informed and invested in the changes. Encourage the chapter you are serving to add a Director Diversity/Inclusion onto the Chapter Leadership Team this year and work together as an AAC to embrace the opportunities that arise from incorporating DEI into your specialty area. In the fall, an additional advisor counterpart position will be added to each AAC which could be filled by a new or existing advisor. More information will be forthcoming about filling that role, but in the meantime, brainstorm what your committee needs to do to onboard that advisor and integrate them into your committee. Now more than ever, every advisor is encouraged to personally commit themselves to developing their knowledge, awareness and skills related to DEI. The resources on Pi Phi’s website are a good starting point. Advisor training and development will be a clear priority as we implement these new DEI-focused roles.

There are still many things that need to be decided before this new structure is implemented. These details include officer training and resources, AAC recruiting and training, slating and elections, officer budgeting, chapter evaluation and other reporting, voting logistics, and so on. We will use best practices from the recently implemented officer structure to roll out updates and resources over the next 6-9 months.

Alumnae Questions

The Director Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be partnering with other Director-level volunteers internationally to ensure DEI efforts are impactful across alumnae and collegiate sectors. Partnership between this new Specialty Director, the Director Alumnae and Alumnae Engagement Directors will present increased opportunities for proactive alumnae engagement with DEI.

With additional positions focused on DEI, this means alumnae involvement in this work is more critical than ever. Alumnae will continue to be involved in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee and will be added into the roles at each of the volunteer levels. In particular, the Fraternity will be looking to passionate, knowledgeable alumnae to support alumnae clubs through regional support and collegiate chapters in the AAC Inclusion Advisor role. Any alumna interested in volunteering for Pi Beta Phi is always encouraged to make Pi Phi aware by submitting the form here. Volunteer roles are not the only way alumnae can be involved in this new structure. As the Fraternity’s DEI strategy evolves, a focus on including alumnae in DEI initiatives will be a priority.

Alumnae will play an important part in the success of these new roles within the structure. It will be important that all alumnae identify how these changes will help meet the increasing responsibility on the Fraternity to respond to DEI needs, and that each club and individual champions the efforts of Pi Beta Phi. Positive support to chapters and clubs implementing DEI initiatives will be necessary to the success of these structure changes. As volunteer roles are phased in, alumnae eager to serve will be critical to implementing the changes successfully.

Pi Phi By the Numbers

More than 150 years ago, 12 courageous young women at Monmouth College came together to form a new organization grounded in the values of Integrity, Lifelong Commitment, Honor & Respect, Personal & Intellectual Growth, Philanthropic Service to Others and Sincere Friendship. Learn more about Pi Beta Phi with some fast facts about our sisterhood.

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