News: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Feedback from Our Candidate Listening Circles - Dec 16, 2020
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Wednesday, December 16, 2020General News

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Feedback from Our Candidate Listening Circles

Dear Search Associates Community,

On August 26, Search Associates sent out a letter addressing our plans to become a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. If you missed this communication, you can view our DEI commitments here.


At that time, we laid out the steps we had already taken as well as the action items we planned to complete moving forward. As promised, we want to continue our dialogue with you and provide a transparent accounting of where we are in our progress.  


One action we wanted to take was to provide a safe space for our candidates to share their stories. The six listening circles we hosted provided a forum for people across the globe to express their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives about their experience with Search Associates, with their schools, and with the broader international school community. We appreciate the level of candor and sharing of experiences in our circles and commit to using this feedback to inform our work. 


The key themes that emerged from the listening circles with our candidate community, are summarized as problem statements below:

  • Systemic bias towards white people, white men in particular, native English speakers (and passport holders) contributes to systemic barriers for underrepresented and historically marginalized groups in the international school community.

  • Some international schools do not have a positive, inclusive, safe, and nurturing school culture and climate. Candidates often experience overt and covert racial and other types of bias and discrimination from leaders, colleagues, and parents and there seems to be no recourse.

  • Candidates are unclear about the role and responsibilities of Senior Associates. The inconsistency of experiences with different Associates contributes to this lack of clarity. 

  • Many candidates experience a sense of helplessness and powerlessness when they have negative experiences with Search Associates, or at their schools, and do not feel there is a clear and/or safe pathway to express these concerns and receive the support they need.

  • Candidates experience barriers throughout their job search and hiring process, at job fairs and with prospective schools, based on racial and other aspects of identity. These candidates have felt unsupported by Search.

  • The Search Associates team and international schools lack racial, and/or gender, and/or other aspects of representation. 

  • A diverse community is not an inclusive one. Diversity is seen as a number or checkbox for many schools. Candidates with marginalized identities within the international school community often experience a lack of support once they join the school community and do not feel that their perspectives and contributions are valued. In addition, there are no clear and/or safe pathways to express these concerns. 

  • Candidates are unclear about where Search stands in its beliefs about diversity, equity, and inclusion and whether they will use their influence with member schools to align on equitable and inclusive best practices across all facets of the candidate experience, advocate for and support change in existing policies, systems, structures, and practices that lead to bias, and implement, track, and follow-through on accountability measures.

As CEO, I participated in all six listening circles. I sincerely thank all of those who participated and trusted in the process. Our learnings from these powerful experiences will shape our strategy and actions moving forward.  

We know there is tremendous opportunity to work towards a global community of international educators and schools who envision a new future where candidates know their most salient identities are valued and included in Search Associates and in their school communities. 


In addition to the listening circles, our commitments in process include:

  • A comprehensive equity and inclusion organizational audit 
  • Individual and organizational intercultural learning
  • Development of a DEI strategic plan, prioritizing goals and actions of meaningful and needed change

We will continue to keep you updated on our progress as our DEI work continues. In the meantime, we thank you for your continued support and wish you a safe and joyful 2021.




Jessica Magagna, CEO and The Search Associates Team

Did You Know…?

Senior Associate Harry Deelman was at various times headmaster of schools in a fascinating foursome of global cities: Buenos Aires, Rome, Dubai, and Bangkok.