For issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we must find the root causes for our specific populations before diving in with well-intentioned interventions that may miss the mark and leave us no better than before we started.
One of the objectives in my work is to help people uncover the root causes for the more visible symptoms and problems we see like persistence or interest. So, in this 3.5-minute illustrative video, we challenge you to act like a child and don’t stop asking why until you get to the bottom of things.
How often do you ask, “why?” And when you do, how often are you satisfied with the first response? If you’ve ever had a conversation with a young child, do they commonly accept the first response?
Researchers have explored why young children ask so many “why” questions and conclude that children are motivated by a desire for explanation. Results indicate that when preschoolers ask “why” questions, they’re not merely trying to prolong the conversation; they’re trying to get to the bottom of things.
When it comes issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we’ve got to keep asking why. If we don’t keep asking why we won’t get to the bottom of things. We need to find the root cause.
The root cause is the core issue—the highest-level cause—that sets in motion the entire cause-and-effect reaction that ultimately leads to the problem or problems. Too often, we fall flat when we see symptoms and problems and just stop there.
For example, let’s take a look at a tree and consider nontraditional careers and pathways. A nontraditional career is one in which a single-gender represents less than 25% of the total number of workers.
What we see first are the symptoms like participation, performance, completion. If we look a little deeper, we can identify some problems like awareness and interest. But the root cause is the WHY! Why aren’t students aware and interested? Some causes can include culture and climate, access, opportunity, policies, bias, and stereotypes.
There are many root causes for inequities in education and in nontraditional pathways, and they often work together in complex ways. Until we verify and deeply examine the root causes for our particular population, we won’t fully understand WHY we see the symptoms and problems we do.
What can you do?
- Read the research! Understand the root causes.
- Make a hypothesis of which root causes might be at play.
- Conduct a root cause analysis to identify and verify underlying causes and barriers before you dive in with an intervention.
A root cause analysis is a structured process that assists in identifying underlying factors or causes of an adverse event. Understanding the contributing factors or causes of a system failure can help develop actions that sustain the correction.
Otherwise, we keep trying things, burning our time, energy, and budgets on solutions that don’t address the root cause.
So, remember! Act like a child, and don’t stop asking why until you get to the bottom of things.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2009, November 13). When preschoolers ask questions, they want explanations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 11, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091113083254.htm