For those who are interested, we’d like to take a moment to clarify our values related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in aspects of our work, life, and community at Astrology University. As a small privately-owned business we think about inclusivity often and it’s been front of mind since Tony Howard first founded this astrology school. We’d like to share the steps we have taken since our founding and also some of our plans for the future.
Astrology, like so many fields, has been a white cis heterosexual male dominated industry. That’s in a process of change and shift, as it is in many other fields. All of the systemic reasons (racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, transphobia, etc.) that we see a lack of representation is just as present in astrology as it is in other fields.
We are aware of the lack of diverse representation at AU and also the field of astrology in general (in who attends conferences, who is invited to teach, and in the student body). For the record, it is important to us to have a diversity of speakers while also honoring our intention of providing instructors who have over twenty years experience either teaching or consulting, have published writing, and are inspiring and skilled instructors. Unfortunately it’s hard to check all of those boxes and also achieve the kind of diversity we are aiming for with the current pool of talent available. So here are a few things we’re doing to change things.
We have been working to address these dynamics behind the scenes for years (as have many of our colleagues). Here are a few things we have achieved: ten of our core instructors are women, one of whom is a woman of color. Five of our teachers are from the LGBTQ community. We have guest lecturers and hosts of our summits who are POC. That’s a start, and at the same time we haven’t reached our goals yet. Part of that will require time, including the time for current working gifted POC astrologers to gain the years of experience that is necessary to be able to provide the excellent quality of astrological education we aim to provide. But we’re not just sitting around waiting for this to happen. We’re making efforts to help the process in every way we’re able to.
For many years behind the scenes, we have paid for young BIPOC astrology students to attend conferences free of charge through a scholarship fund we established to address some of the systemic barriers to attendance. We’ve covered their conference fees, and in some cases their lodging or travel expenses when needed.
In order to provide a platform for young astrologers to gain experience speaking so that they could have references that would allow them to apply to speak at in-person conferences, we created the virtual summit and website https://www.freshvoicesinastrology.com/. This project had multiple missions in addition the aforementioned, including an attempt to increase diversity in astrology, to elevate POC voices, and to provide a venue for astrologers who had diverse audiences or perspectives and for some reason weren’t being invited to conferences.
Several of our community members were frustrated by not seeing younger people, people of color, and queer people represented in the conference circuit. And we heard from young people who expressed frustration that they weren’t invited to speak due to a lack of experience, but didn’t have access to opportunities to speak to gain that very experience.
Fresh Voices started in 2018 and has had three summits to date and also many monthly webinars to lift up the voices and perspectives of poc and queer astrologers. In 2020 we achieved “phase two” of the process with Fresh Voices, which was the intention to turn management over to a young woman of color, and we’re in the process of transferring ownership as well. To facilitate the transition, we have provided a period of financial and administrative support (for backend web development, accounting, and customer service).
In 2019 we began a four-year program of astrological study and simultaneously launched a new scholarship fund to help address systemic barriers to attendance by providing several scholarships to BIPOC students and also to students with financial need.
In 2020 we expanded the scholarship program, in part with the help of two additional funding resources, and now have several scholarship options, including one that offers five Black or Native American/First Nations students a full-ride scholarship for the four-year program. We also have financial need based scholarships, and a scholarship to support students pursuing social work or counseling degrees.
We have contributed financially to other scholarship funds that target poc students with partner organizations.
In our school, Tony has always prioritized diversity in his chart examples in his webinars, and in 2020 we established instructor guidelines to support our other instructors in doing so as well. In addition, in 2020 we began providing diversity training to educate our instructors on best practices and sensitivity training regarding diversity, including but not limited to trans awareness, gender identity, sexism, and racism.
We prioritize woman-owned, poc-owned, and queer-owned businesses as our preferred vendors for our contractor needs (accounting, graphic design, social media, etc).
We make conscious efforts to use our social media platform to bring more discourse around social issues while elevating diverse experiences by highlighting charts from African American leaders, women leaders, environmental leaders, and LGBTQ leaders. We make conscious efforts to diversify imagery in our website and social media graphics.
To address accessibility issues, we began creating transcripts of some of our most popular events and podcasts many years ago. We’ve been increasing those efforts over time and recently started offering live closed captioning of our webinars and live courses.
In order to create a business model that values and respects the contributions of our talent, we have developed an equitable pay structure/profit sharing model for our instructors that favors the instructor – which is not the practice for most astrology businesses. In fact, many conferences and astrology groups pay less than 5-10% of the income received to the speakers who create the content, and in some cases don’t even pay first time speakers, including BIPOC speakers. We encourage you to inquire about this the next time you register for a conference or online event with another business to make sure that the speakers aren’t being exploited financially.
As we head into the future, we’ll continue to expand our efforts. Thanks for being part of our community, and thanks to those of you who support our work. We appreciate you!