Faculty, staff and administrators from 43 independent institutions gathered together to participate in the first West Coast Diversity Job Fair on Feb. 23.
The fair, which was co-hosted with the Brentwood School, gave an opportunity for participants to discuss their experiences working in independent school environments and promote open job positions to potential educators of underrepresented groups.
Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Associate Director of Admission Janine Jones and other administrators have frequently traveled to the East Coast to attend similar diversity job fairs.
However, Jones said they have always faced difficulty in attracting possible candidates to move to the West Coast for a job opening.
To combat this, Jones decided to host a job fair on the West Coast.
“I figured we still need to do it because we’re still talking about the value in having a diverse faculty and staff and the value that it gives to all of our students, but especially for students of color,” Jones said. “When they don’t see people that look like them teaching in their classrooms, what message is that unintentionally sending to them? All of our schools talk about the value of having a diverse student body, and now a diverse faculty and staff. So I wasn’t deterred and I said ‘Okay, we’re going to do it ourselves.’”
The event also included an information session , which allowed participants to understand the world of independent education beyond the stereotype it holds in society.
“Often times, people see it as us being on an island,” Jones said. “We’re just so unknown and foreign. I think through this event, we’re working on letting down the curtain a little bit in trying to let people know that we’re a normal place here, and we’ve got great kids, and we need to get great educators in here too.”
The event opened with an introduction and keynote from retired Head of School at the Center for Early Education Reveta Bowers. Bowers discussed her experience as the first female Head of colored background to inspire the participants to actively search for job opportunities in the independent schools.
“No matter the race, black, white, Asian or Hispanic, we all have our own culture and story to share with the community,” Bowers said. “In a world of silos, we have the role to crack open the divided society.”
Black Leadership Awareness and Culture Club leader and Student Ambassador Sirus Wheaton ’19 said he volunteered for the event in order to provide an inside perspective of the school for visiting participants.
“I appreciate that [Jones] is really trying to make strides, not just within Harvard-Westlake but across the entire independent school community as well,” Wheaton said. “It’s important that we have an event where more diverse people are seen, so that more people can be put into positions that usually aren’t so diverse. I volunteered for the event because I thought I could really be of use as a person of color who experiences Harvard-Westlake from day to day.”
Student Ambassador Xenia Bernal ’19 said it was inspiring to see the school community attempting to increase inclusivity.
“It’s really interesting to see how far we’re coming as independent schools in making the effort to reach out to people who represent marginalized group and [in] learning how just being a person that is part of a marginalized community is in of itself a completely different story,” Bernal said. “I love participating in events like these because I’m able to see people being passionate about wanting to be a teacher, wanting to be part of the administration like ours, about wanting to open doors for younger students who may not have had them open before. Honestly, it’s really beautiful.”