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Racial Diversity in Public Garden Leadership

As the demographics of the United States grow more diverse, nonprofits are challenged to engage all constituents in order to remain relevant and financially sustainable as they plan for the future. Public gardens, as environmental and cultural nonprofits, are faced with similar challenges of engaging growing diverse audiences. Dialogue surrounding racial diversity in the field of public horticulture currently focuses on audience, membership, and volunteers. While visitor diversity is an
important consideration for public gardens, it must be supported by equally diverse representation in public garden leadership. This research intends to explore the topic of racial diversity in public garden leadership. Using qualitative inquiry and narrative interviews, this research captures the experience of racially diverse public garden leaders. The stories of their pipelines to leadership will inform discussion on recruiting, retaining, and promoting people of color into garden leadership roles.

Findings indicate a gap between the initial exposure to public gardens/horticulture/nature and high school/college career considerations. Findings also indicate that people of color in public garden roles require support for additional emotional labor caused by micro-aggressions, discrimination, isolation, and fatigue in the work environment. Finally, findings suggest one-on-one mentorship as an effective pipeline to public garden careers for youth, young adults, and emerging professionals.
Considerations include the complexities of individual identities, and the ways that race did or did not play a part in the workplace identities of participants.