Cultural Awareness in the Social Work World

Presenter: Mika Morikawa

Research Category: Social Sciences, Business, and Law

Globalization has brought a wealth of opportunities – and a profound complexity of our social issues. These are surfacing in our institutions, such as schools, healthcare, governments, and corporations. A stakeholder present in all these environments is social workers. As the reach of globalization continues to expand, social workers and their ability to serve diverse constituents will become increasingly integral to public health and safety.

However, when examining the social work workplace, two alarming characteristics become apparent. Firstly, a stark majority of 67.9% of social workers are white. The numbers speak to the social workplace being potentially marginalizing for people of color. Secondly, many social workers do not have a social work degree, and social work managers are oftentimes professional leaders rather than experts in the field. Therefore, social workers do not all have the same exposure to anti-racism curriculum and policies. Considering the demographics of their clientele, it is crucial for social work management to exercise integrative, transformational leadership to increase diverse representation amongst social workers, improving their ability to serve their constituents.

Informed by the Cross-cultural Adaptation model and Critical Race Theory in Critical Leadership, I created a customizable curriculum guideline for social work management aimed at improving the experiences of social workers of color. The guideline is designed to critically examine institutions and to take immediate action with both long and short-term sustainable implementations. Included is a tool in the form of a matrix offering the relationship between the theories and the field.