Letter to the Editor
I’ve been enjoying this issue of your magazine but then was stopped short when I came to the article of “10 Dedicated & Deserving Social Workers” to find that they are all white women. This is really disappointing. Certainly, there must be people of color and men who are also deserving. If it is that your readers are only nominating white women then I would suggest that you have another problem that deserves your attention and that is how to reach a more diverse audience.
— Name withheld by request
Thank you for your letter. I was concerned when I read it because we had received similar comments on social media and I would like to clarify what appear to be some misunderstandings.
First, all of the finalists this year are not white women. There is one Latina social worker. But if you are new to Social Work Today, which you may be, you wouldn’t be aware that in past years there have been quite a few men and women of color selected as finalists. You can verify this by going to the website and viewing archived issues.
We receive many nominations and the finalists are selected on the basis of career accomplishments and the strength of essays that describe those achievements and challenges those social workers have faced. It is not a race-, gender-, or any other identity-based selection.
If a nominator should submit a statement saying that “Joe is a great social worker” and that’s it, that would not be a nomination that would be considered as a finalist. However, if a nominator should submit an essay that details the social worker’s professional service, commitment, and achievements, that individual is more likely to be considered as a finalist.
Of course, we cannot control who is nominated and the substance of the essays; however, by explaining this a bit more explicitly in future nomination announcements maybe it will help nominators understand this, however my belief is that it is something that professionals should already understand. But perhaps we need to be more detailed in our announcements.
I also wish there had been more diversity in the nominations and finalists this year, but that is not how the process is conducted, nor do I think it should be. It should not be identity based, but rather based on professional service and dedication to clients’ well-being, and the only way we have to assess that is through the essays that the nominators submit.
As I am not an active user of social media, I was unaware of the concerns noted by others. And, as you suggest, I am a new reader to your magazine so I have not seen others in this apparently annual award. I am glad to hear that I am wrong about this year’s award winners and that people of color and men have been better represented in past years.
I appreciate the ethics behind the nomination process and further the willingness to look at ways to continue to include candidates from traditionally marginalized and more diverse communities. That is so at the heart of social work!
— Name withheld by request