I couldn’t be happier. Really, this is my dream job. And I’ve said it in some of the meetings, but I’m totally not joking. My sons have chores, they’re eight and ten, and my eight-year-old looked at me and said, “We have to do chores. Meanwhile, you have your dream job.”
This past winter, SCBWI’s leadership team set out to hire a full-time Equity and Inclusion Officer for the organization. After a months-long hiring process encompassing a large pool of highly qualified candidates, we are thrilled to have April Powers join SCBWI as Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer.
April brings over 15 years of experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion training, recruiting, community outreach, and leadership to the position. Recently, some SCBWI volunteers from various regions had a virtual chat with April to get to know her a little more and to find out about her background, her goals for SCBWI, and why this is her dream job. Here are some of the things we found out.
April has made it her life’s work to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and civility. She is a bilingual multihyphenate person: multicultural/religious, mixed race, cisgender straight woman with an LGBTQI+ and multi-ethnic family that also includes neurodiversity and family members with disabilities. Her latest role has been running her own global inclusion consulting and training firm, First Impression Rx, which serves Fortune 50 government and nonprofit organizations. She previously held diversity roles at Nestlé USA and Amgen, in addition to nonprofit organizations, all of which helps her bring a depth of knowledge to SCBWI from a global perspective with a nonprofit lens.
April told us that her first order of business as SCBWI’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer is to provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training for all SCBWI staff and regional team members. Within weeks of joining SCBWI, these training sessions have already gotten underway. She also hopes to offer training in the future for anyone who volunteers at events, with the objective of making sure that everyone who is representing SCBWI in some way is clued in to how we present ourselves in the world. She uses an expression from author and educator Cornelius Minor when she says that, “We as an organization are ‘radically pro kid.’ We’re here for all children and their families in whatever capacity. That means we need to support writers, illustrators, and translators who create for all of those children, and make sure that we provide safe spaces for all of our members.”
Another one of April’s goals is recruitment. Not only do we strive for diversity and inclusion among SCBWI members, but in our regional team volunteers and leadership as well. She explains, “We’re looking at scholarships, we’re looking at ways to reach out, and we’re looking at how to incorporate people more in leadership and ambassadorship roles within the volunteer corps.” She urges anyone who wants to be included in leadership in this organization to reach out to her. She has a recruiting background, and she wants to know who you are. In terms of underrepresented members, April hopes to be able to help SCBWI reach out to those members so that we can make sure their stories are told. Similarly to the Own Voices initiative in publishing, April has suggested implementing an option on members’ profile pages to be able to indicate whether they are from an underrepresented group, if they choose to do that, so that SCBWI will be able to reach out to those members with opportunities.
Another objective that April has put forth for SCBWI is in regards to inclusivity. What she would like to see for any underrepresented creatives is to have their work highlighted during their recognized month (for example, Pride Month or Hispanic Heritage Month). It is very important to April to make sure that everyone feels welcome, included, and counted. This includes those from indigenous populations from other parts of the world. April is very open to hearing from all underrepresented members so that SCBWI can help their work be seen.
It is also very important to April to ensure that SCBWI is accessible to those with disabilities. Our online summer workshops now include an American Sign Language translator, and we are also looking into ways to make sure that we include proper formatting on our websites and social media platforms for people to be able to receive the information and hear it accurately on their translators. April mentioned that one of the struggles with inclusivity is that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” She says, “If there are ways that we can better accommodate members in our events, let us know. We’ll do our best, the best that we can with our ability. I know that we’re a global organization, but this team here is small, mighty, and fierce.”
Why This Is Her Dream Job
We know that April has an extensive background in diversity, equity, and inclusion roles, but in addition to that she is also an aspiring children’s book writer. April explained that she had just finished writing a children’s book when she got the e-mail asking if she would like to be considered for this role with SCBWI, a role that was, as she puts it, “my life’s work . . . my passion.”
But it wasn’t just the converging of two passions that sealed the deal for her. As an example to her children and to her value system, April felt that, in order to make a move to another organization, she would have to believe in her heart that they were serious about being committed to the work. She had been in other organizations in the past where they “needed the title” but weren’t willing to put in the effort needed to make real change. She could see that SCBWI, and in particular with Lin at the top, was determined put in the work. It was evident to her that, as an organization, SCBWI is working toward something greater than ourselves. She said, “Whether you have children or not, we are all the ancestors of future generations on this planet. Let’s leave something great for them!”
April does believe there is much work to be done. Part of SCBWI’s mission is to support all children’s book writers, illustrators, and translators, but she says, “What we really need to do is to reach out to those who are not traditionally in this space, because our society is failing at that.” She sees the truth of it because she has children who read books. And when asked about getting pushback, she says, “Trust me, we’re going to hear everything from everybody. It’s going down because we’re taking a stance. We said, yes, Black lives matter. We are putting our stake in the ground and saying, yes, we are an antiracist organization. We have to be. We’re for kids. Why would we be anything else?”