Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. It serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggle for freedom, equality, and social justice. Recognizing and celebrating Juneteenth, as well as other holidays important to our sisters, within our sisterhood is an important step towards inclusivity.
Sisterhood has always held a special place in the lives of women seeking support, empowerment, and a sense of belonging. Traditionally, sororities have been viewed as exclusive organizations; however, the concept of inclusive sisterhood, focused on fostering a diverse and supportive community, is gaining momentum as essential to the sorority experience.
It’s important to me to help you to understand who I am as I write this. I cannot speak on this topic without telling you about where I exist as a person. My identity shapes this article and the understanding that not everyone is the same as myself has made inclusion a topic near and dear to my heart. I’m a proud first-generation student and a woman of color. I love getting to know people and understanding communities other than my own because it expands my worldview and allows me to reflect on my own journey. My sorority experience, my identity, and my lived experience may not be the same as yours but I hope that I can provide valuable insight into inclusion from my own view.
Greek love, Chloe
Inclusion matters because it acknowledges and respects the experiences, histories, and contributions of marginalized communities. It allows us to educate ourselves and others, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by communities outside our own.
Inclusivity means acknowledging that the struggles faced by one group affect us all. It is a commitment to standing together, amplifying underrepresented voices, and challenging the structures that perpetuate inequality. By actively supporting and advocating for marginalized communities, we strengthen the bonds of sisterhood and foster an environment where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.
Being mindful of inclusion and access in our sisterhood activities and events also serves as a reminder that the fight for inclusivity is an ongoing process. It encourages us to continuously educate ourselves, challenge our own biases, and actively seek out ways to promote diversity, equity, and justice. Through inclusive practices, we can cultivate a sisterhood that celebrates the richness of different cultures, experiences, and perspectives.
Why is inclusivity important?
Inclusivity is important because it acknowledges the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. When sororities prioritize inclusivity, they create a space where members from diverse backgrounds can thrive. By recognizing and celebrating the unique identities, backgrounds, and experiences of individuals, sororities foster an environment that values and respects the richness that diversity brings.
Inclusive sisterhood offers opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery. When individuals are embraced for who they are, they are more likely to feel empowered to express themselves authentically and explore their full potential. In an inclusive sorority, members are encouraged to step outside their comfort zones, challenge themselves, and develop skills and strengths they may not have otherwise discovered.
Embracing diversity also expands perspectives. In an inclusive sisterhood, members have the chance to learn from one another’s experiences, gaining insights that they may not have encountered otherwise. By engaging with different perspectives, sorority members can broaden their understanding of the world and develop empathy and understanding toward others. This, in turn, nurtures a community that is open-minded, compassionate, and supportive.
But aren’t sororities exclusive organizations?
While it is true that sororities have historically been viewed as exclusive organizations, the concept of sisterhood is evolving. The membership recruitment process can be seen as inherently exclusive but this exclusivity does not mean we are incapable of fostering inclusivity. Inclusivity goes beyond the initial selection process and extends to the ongoing experiences and support provided to members. Many sororities are actively working to become more inclusive by revisiting their policies, values, and traditions. Recognizing the need for inclusivity is the first step towards transforming sororities into organizations that promote diversity, equity, and social justice.
The goal is to create a space that is welcoming and supportive for women from various backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and abilities.
Ways to be more inclusive in our sisterhood:
The majority of Panhellenic sororities have revisited their legacy policies over the last few years. Rethinking the legacy policy can be an important step towards inclusivity – especially if your national organization allows your chapter to create its legacy policy. Rather than solely relying on familial ties, sororities can consider broader membership that encompasses mentorship, leadership, and community involvement. Removing preferential treatment to legacies or lessening the impact of legacy recommendations helps to remove the barrier, and increase access, to members who may be first-generation or whose families didn’t have the opportunity to go Greek in the past. This approach allows women who may not have family connections to participate and contribute meaningfully to the sisterhood.
Make Space for Differences:
Creating an inclusive sisterhood means actively embracing diversity. Encourage open dialogue, celebrate different cultures and traditions, and create safe spaces for members to share their experiences and perspectives. By valuing and respecting the differences among members, a stronger bond of sisterhood can be formed. This also means holding sisters accountable when they close a space.
Educate Yourself & Others:
It is crucial to continuously educate ourselves and others about issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Host workshops, guest speakers, and discussions on topics such as cultural competency, allyship, and intersectionality. Most campuses have Offices of Student Diversity or Divisions of Student Inclusion. Encourage members to attend events held by these entities or reach out to collaborate with them! By understanding the unique challenges faced by individuals from diverse backgrounds, we can foster a more empathetic and inclusive sisterhood.
Bring In Help:
Understand that you might not be the best person to have specific conversations: Recognize that you may only sometimes have the lived experience or expertise to engage in specific conversations. Encourage the participation of members or reach out to community members and stakeholders who are better equipped to address specific issues and create opportunities for them to share their knowledge and perspectives. This approach ensures that voices are amplified and that everyone feels heard and valued.
Event Planning & Recruitment:
When planning events and activities, ensure that they are accessible and considerate of the diverse needs of members. Be mindful of different cultural celebrations, religious holidays, and observances in the calendar of events. Consider asking members if they would be comfortable sharing pieces of their celebrations with the chapter. By incorporating holidays that our sisters celebrate into our sisterhood, we create a space that welcomes and affirms the diversity of our members. It provides an opportunity for learning, empathy, and allyship. Sororities can organize events, activities, and initiatives that highlight the unique customs, practices, and celebrations of various cultures and identities. This can include cultural heritage months, diversity showcases, or collaborative projects with other student organizations. For example, my campus Panhellenic Council makes a great effort to highlight women from different communities during their respective months of awareness. Before recognition months, our Vice President of Marketing sends out a form for members to fill out if they feel comfortable sharing their experiences being a part of certain communities. During recruitment, actively seek out women from a wide range of backgrounds, allowing them to showcase their unique qualities and contributions.
Tokenism is the practice of including individuals from underrepresented groups with the intent of creating an appearance of diversity and inclusion without truly valuing those members from underrepresented groups or addressing issues they face. To truly embody inclusion and sisterhood, it’s critical to avoid tokenism.
Moving beyond just representation and ensuring that all members are given equal platforms, opportunities, and support within our chapters is key to avoiding tokenism. This means we need to recognize the unique experiences, appreciate the different experiences that every member brings to the sorority experience, and actively create a safe environment where every sister’s voice is heard and respected. To avoid tokenism, we need to commit to true inclusion where we amplify under-heard voices and actively work to address biases that create exclusion.
Inclusive sisterhood is a journey of growth and transformation. By embracing diversity and actively working towards inclusivity, sororities can become spaces that empower women, foster understanding, and promote positive change.