Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity for inclusive leadership, taking action

  • Published
  • By Marianne P. Malizia, Director
  • Department of the Air Force Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Zero Discrimination Day is observed annually on March 1. This day provides an opportunity for our Airmen and Guardians to leverage inclusive leadership, to have conversations about the importance of ensuring equitable treatment that enables our total force to give their most to accomplishing the Department’s missions.

Launched in 2014, the United Nations created this international observance to promote dignity, equality and equal treatment before the law regardless of gender, age, sexuality, nationality, skin color, height, weight, profession, education or religious beliefs. The butterfly symbol used for this observance depicts transformation. Zero Discrimination Day calls on all people to step up and speak up to prevent discrimination.

This year’s Zero Discrimination Day theme is “Remove laws that harm, create laws that empower.” The theme highlights the need to identify processes and/or policies that may prohibit the full participation of Airmen and Guardians as they strive to be the best they can be, while bringing their full authentic selves to work each and every day.

The disparity review reports that the Department published in recent months identified disparities experienced by different races, ethnicities and genders in areas of developmental opportunities and administration of discipline, to name a few. Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity for all Airmen and Guardians to look for ways to eliminate barriers that preclude Airman, Guardians, and their family members from having equal and equitable access to resources and opportunities for personal and professional success. We must continue to cultivate an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued for being their authentic self, and where everyone has a true sense of belonging as a member of the Department of the Air Force family.

As 21st century leaders, we operate in a complex global environment, unlike any before. The operational demands are great. In order to ensure the security of our nation, our Airmen and Guardians must have access to the tools that enable them to do their very best work. These tools include, but are not limited to training and educational opportunities, and access to actively engage in mentoring relationships. We must eliminate barriers that prevent our people from being able to use their multi-faceted cognitive, collaborative and innovative power toward solving our challenging and diverse problem sets.

“Some of the world’s most challenging problems can be solved simply by eliminating stigma and discrimination,” said Michel SidibĂ©, a United Nations leader, referencing Zero Discrimination Day. All Airmen and Guardians, both military and civilian, are responsible to take action. Ensuring diverse perspectives are in the room, at the table and given the opportunity to be heard and considered is a great start to building the necessary trust and collaborative environment that eliminates stigma and misperceptions that can lead to discrimination. Look for opportunities to question assumptions, both for yourself and others, and explore those assumptions with inquisitiveness and an interest in finding new ways of thinking.

Today, and every day, I challenge you to remove barriers, to enable everyone to thrive. A start to doing so at an individual level is to gain awareness of your personal biases. This will empower you to mitigate the influence of bias in decision-making and act more deliberately and inclusively. Resources for understanding biases, both conscious and unconscious, are available via Air Force eLearning, Digital University, and the Diversity and Inclusion Resource List. To get involved in the Department’s official efforts to identify and make recommendations to remove organizational barriers, step up and join a local or Department-level Barrier Analysis Working Group team. For more information on the DAFBAWG teams, e-mail