14 December, 2017
I write today on behalf of the ILCA Board of Directors to make members aware of events surrounding the 2017 ILCA Conference “Knowledge, Diversity and Equity: Global Access to Skilled Lactation Care” in Toronto, Canada in July. While many aspects of the conference are remembered fondly, the purpose of this letter is to follow up on a specific aspect of this year’s conference that was more challenging: specifically, events surrounding ILCA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Recently, the ILCA Board met in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. This was the Board’s first opportunity since July to engage in face-to-face discussion about conference events and to examine what we could have done better and what we intend to do better in the future. Prior to this in-person meeting, the Board also engaged in long-distance discussion regarding conference events.
Recognizing the need for ongoing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) training, and because the Board wanted to seek input on ILCA’s response to conference events, ILCA’s Executive Director, Dick Padlo, engaged in a thorough review of several EDI experts. ILCA contracted with Dr. G. Rumay Alexander, EdD, RN, FAAN, the Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to provide training in November and for ongoing consultation.
For those who did not attend the AGM in Toronto or for those who attended but were unaware of the events, the following will attempt to add context for understanding.
Just prior to the conference convening in Toronto, the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE®) announced the convening of a task force to explore introduction of a second certification in the US, in addition to the IBCLC® credential. This news sparked spirited debate and strong feelings among some ILCA members and conference attendees. In response to the announcement, some conference attendees developed and wore badges to protest the addition of the second credential. These badges stated in many languages, “IBLCE® is the Barrier to the IBCLC®.” In response to the badges, it is our understanding that some attendees felt personally targeted, including but not limited to a perception that the badges created a racially and ethnically oppressive environment. The sensitive nature of the issues resulted in a request by the Lactation Equity Action Committee (LEAC) that the ILCA Board take action regarding the wearing of the badges. At LEAC’s request, at the beginning of the AGM, a representative from the ILCA Board reminded attendees of ILCA’s “Safe Space” policy. The intent of this policy is to promote a learning environment that feels physically and emotionally safe for all.
The unintended consequence of the reading of the “Safe Space” policy was a perception by some that the ILCA Board silenced those who were opposing IBLCE®’s new policies potentially affecting the IBCLC® credential. These feelings were expressed by some participants during the AGM. After that, some attendees also expressed personal feelings describing how the situation impacted their emotional well-being. What began as one issue (the second credential) became several issues. We recognize that these events became a complex and painful situation for many. On behalf of the Board, I want to respectfully acknowledge the range of experiences and feelings that were present among our participants. The Board hears the criticism expressed by some members related to our response during the AGM or lack thereof since the AGM. We offer our sincere apologies for our failure to respond effectively to the multiple issues at the conference and for our failure to further address these issues in a timely manner after the conference.
In addition, we want to assure all members that the Board has continued to process the range of experiences of attendees, and that we are fully committed to understanding how we can improve our responses, should a similar situation arise again.
Here is what we have learned and what we want to share with our members:
- IBLCE® – the authority for certifying lactation providers – is the institution introducing a second credential. Ultimately, ILCA has no authority over IBLCE®. As a separate organization, ILCA can seek our members’ input and represent their voices. Our mission remains: to advance the IBCLC® profession worldwide. ILCA issued a survey of members after the announcement of the second credential to share with IBLCE® leadership, which we did in July at our Board meeting, immediately before the conference started. We have recently met with IBLCE® leadership to discuss how IBLCE® will address ILCA members’ concerns. We will share more information on this at a later date.
- ILCA welcomes its members and conference attendees to express their concerns about issues that impact the profession. We sincerely regret that the reading of ILCA’s “Safe Space” policy resulted in some members feeling that ILCA was silencing the expression of their opinion regarding the second credential. We apologize and intend to do better in the future by re-examining our current “Safe Space” policy.
- ILCA welcomes its members and conference attendees to express experiences of oppression. We sincerely regret that our conference attendees experienced oppression during an ILCA event. We apologize and, in addition to re-examining our “Safe Space” policy, we will engage our entire community, from leadership to event participants, in creating an environment in which all attendees feel welcomed and valued.Finally, the ILCA Board is taking steps to ensure our values of equity and diversity. We want to express our gratitude to ILCA’s Equity Committee for their review of conference events and this letter. While we expect that we will continue to engage in formal EDI training, we also know that participation in trainings is not enough. The subsequent actions that result from trainings, with outcomes that are measurable and meaningful, are ultimately the goal of this education. We will continue to work with you—our members, stakeholders, and partners—to create an organization where all members feel valued.
I have been part of the ILCA community for almost 20 years. As a conference attendee, a volunteer, a Board member, and now as the ILCA President, I have come to understand that much of the learning that happens at the conference has nothing to do with lactation, per se. This was true for the ILCA Board this year. I want to reassure you all that the ILCA Board has listened and is committed to upholding our values and working toward our mission and vision with all of you.
Sincerely, on behalf of the ILCA Board of Directors,
Michele K. Griswold, PhD, MPH, RN, IBCLC®
President, International Lactation Consultant Association