By Lauren Healy
INSIGHT INTO DIVERSITY
The American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity (AAAED) is a nonprofit advocacy organization that develops training programs in an effort to promote support for and understanding of affirmative action, equal opportunity, and diversity. The association also offers expert guidance in regard to federal legislation and current events related to access and inclusion.
Founded in 1974 as the American Association for Affirmative Action (AAAA) by higher education leaders hoping to further this important work, the association updated its name in 2014. This change was designed to better reflect the association’s mission to “nurture understanding of and offer advice on affirmative action to enhance access and equity in employment, economic, and educational opportunities,” according to AAAED’s website.
“The debate about affirmative action continues to rage in the public square,” says AAAED Executive Director Shirley J. Wilcher, JD. “[Our members’ titles] are now more likely to be equity and diversity officers [than affirmative action officers]. We also wanted to reach out to more of the Title IX community, so we thought it made sense to change our name to reflect what our tagline has been for many years: ‘access, equity, and diversity.’”
Wilcher, a graduate of Harvard Law School, says her passion for equality is deep-rooted. “I inherited the genes of my father’s brother, who was an activist,” says Wilcher; she also credits her dedication to inclusion to a year spent studying abroad in Paris, where she says social justice was highly revered. Spurred by this passion, Wilcher has worked for several agencies over the years that are associated with civil rights, including the National Women’s Law Center; the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), where she served as deputy assistant secretary from 1994 to 2001; and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). And in 2001, she founded her own diversity consulting firm, Wilcher Global, LLC. However, much of her time is spent furthering AAAED’s mission.
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