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5 Ways to Embrace Diversity in Social Work

Written by Baylor School of Social Work Team on 05.2.22

Social workers are confronted with various situations, people, and personalities every day. The profession calls for engagement with people from all social, political, economic, and even religious backgrounds in an attempt to improve the well-being of a community.

Clients may speak a different language, have difficulty communicating in other ways, or have a cultural background that is completely unfamiliar to you. As such, a successful social worker's fundamental tenet is to embrace diversity, so that they may provide the best care and service for all clients.

Importance of Diversity in Social Work

You need to understand the significance of a person's history to become an effective practitioner. The pivotal perspective influences how a person perceives and responds to the world.

Some of these defining influences include race, religious identity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, and English proficiency, to name a few. Social workers must recognize that these identities are complex and frequently intersect.

Perhaps you're thinking about pursuing a career in social work and are considering returning to school to acquire your Master of Social Work degree. If so, you may be wondering how you can understand and uphold the importance of diversity. Below are five ways social workers can strive to uphold and understand the importance of diversity in social work practice.

1. Develop Cultural Competence

Better social work begins with cultural competency. Being culturally competent means understanding the unique cultural, language, social, and economic subtleties of individual people and families. Social workers have a unique ability to comprehend the challenges various groups face and how disparities in our current social systems can negatively impact lives.

Everyone is affected, whether people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, or people with mental health issues. Culturally competent social workers recognize problematic situations and inequitable societal limits, overcome language obstacles, and comprehend the nuances of family relationships among ethnic groups. 

They are sensitive to the rights of the elderly, disabled persons, and LGBTQ+ people. Cultural competency is an essential component of social work and a quality shared by all exceptional social workers.

2.  Keep Learning

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) social workers must be knowledgeable about the history, traditions, values, family systems, and artistic expressions of various cultural groups, such as race and ethnicity; immigration and refugee status; tribal groups; religion and spirituality; sexual orientation; gender identity or expression; social class; and mental or physical abilities.

While this information is essential for lobbying and policymaking, it also impacts social work practices and research. It's also necessary for the client because their social worker must recommend appropriate services and resources and meet their requirements. 

This also implies that social workers must continue to learn to stay competent and effective practitioners.

3.  Defend Justice

The National Association of Social Workers is convinced that the field needs social justice advocates. Social Workers are one of the few groups of professionals whose education and experience prepare them to speak out against injustice, stereotyping, and unfairness. 

Social workers who are committed to defending justice strive to advocate for policies that allow marginalized people to advance. They support legislation that preserves civil freedoms (such as the Voting Rights Act) and devote their lives to achieving equality.

4. Honor Minority Contributions

The field of social work has a rich history of exemplary individuals of our society who uphold the craft's high moral standards. Honoring minority contributions to social work is an excellent opportunity to recognize how far the field has progressed and how specific individuals have aided that progress.

5.  Be an Advocate

Social workers must fight for policies and laws that fulfill the needs of their clients. People should be empowered as a result of their efforts. 

Social workers must recognize that what they value and want to accomplish may not be the same as what the community wants or needs. A social worker may misunderstand how more significant societal concerns or regulations affect their clients' life if they do not ask questions or effectively communicate with others.

A social worker must work for a fairer world on a bigger scale, which is why comprehending diversity and building competency and expertise are so important. Those with excellent intentions often don't understand they're causing more difficulties or overlooking the issues that need to be addressed.

Social Work and Diversity: An Overview

Each client is unique, with their own life experiences and world perspectives.

Every social worker has a responsibility to keep learning and to improve since it is the only way to become and remain an effective social worker. They must comprehend why someone would be hesitant to seek expert assistance or struggle with a problem they are unfamiliar with.

It is critical that social workers also accept changes in how they treat clients and changes in the field. Social workers should strive to develop a workforce that better represents their community and the country.

Social workers have a unique set of responsibilities rarely duplicated in the typical workplace. They are proponents of equal rights and champions of change and justice. They encourage, motivate, engage, and speak out. This is why social workers are so good at what they do: they come from a wide range of backgrounds, races, and religious beliefs. At some point, everyone requires assistance, and social workers are culturally competent social justice fighters capable of assisting anyone.

Embrace Diversity In Your Practice Today

To promote diversity in social work, you need the training and insight to be effective in your role and career. In the MSW program the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University, you'll develop the skills and expertise to better support your clients and your community by upholding social justice and the dignity of individuals. 


Learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion in social work

Posted by Baylor School of Social Work Team

We are the admissions team at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, at Baylor University. We believe social work is about service and justice; it is about the dignity of individuals and the power of relationships; it is about integrity and competence, and our mission here is preparing social workers to do these things well. We hope you find our resources helpful and informative as you explore and pursue a degree in social work!