The need for diversity and inclusion in myriad disciplines has been discussed in many articles and opinion pieces.
Although the current climate is more likely to accept this dialogue, I often ask myself what the value of pointing out a problem without also finding workable solutions. Without writing a follow-up, I would commit social misconduct as a change agent. Nonetheless, I admit that there is certainly no shortage of food for thought on this subject. We need to create more conversations, measures and solutions – not less.
The good news is that the solutions are doable and right before our eyes. The bad news is that the solutions are feasible and right before our eyes, but no significant changes have occurred. The focus of this article is on veterinary medicine, but some, if not all, of the premises can be applied to multiple disciplines where diversity is needed or lacking.
Meeting the need for diversity
For any attempt to diversify the workplace to have a chance of success, we must first point to the overwhelming evidence to demonstrate the benefits of diversity. In addition, those making decisions must accept this data and embrace the positive effects of diversity including, but not limited to, improved work ethic, more innovation and creativity, customer loyalty, improved production, and improved reputation among business cohorts.
Once we appreciate these facts, we need to forensically examine our individual workforces and begin researching guidelines that will bring us closer to our diversity goals. You may be thinking, “What are the goals?” Well, we should strive to ensure that our workplace demographics reflect as closely as possible the melting pot society in which we live.
Let’s address the ever-present elephant in the room when we talk about a policy to increase diversity: Affirmative Action (AA). What inevitably follows the appeal to AA is the notion of “reverse racism”. Those who oppose the idea of a policy of increasing diversity tend to advocate a “color-blind” ideology in which privileged individuals deny or minimize the level of racial inequality or explain contemporary racial inequality as the result of factors unrelated to racial dynamics have to do 2
The negative connotation that comes with AA stems from the belief that you are sacrificing talent for diversity. Despite the obvious amalgamation, the two things are not mutually exclusive, and when worded this way, a wrong choice will be made. Research supports the opposite conclusion: if you have a very homogeneous job – that is, if different candidates are overlooked – you end up moving further into the talent pool of majority group members then need to set requirements and thresholds that the individual must meet in order to work for a Employment to be considered. Once you have a solid group of qualified candidates, you need to make choices that will bring you closer to your stated diversity goals.
The above approach is categorized as goal-oriented, as opposed to the more process-oriented approach we see with traditional AA programs. Hiring unqualified candidates would be detrimental to your business under any circumstances and would cause the candidate to fail.
Next, we need to incentivize or motivate people from the majority group to get personally involved in caring for or sponsoring people from vulnerable groups. (When I say motivate, I take the view of GEN Dwight D. Eisenhower. He famously said: “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”) The Natural The aversion people experience when made to feel compelled to do something is well documented. Hence, willing participants are likely to produce better results.
Now that you have a deeper understanding of the benefits of diversity and the effects of not having it, you can put in place a mechanism and criteria that potential candidates must meet. This mechanism allows you to make your selection from qualified candidates while keeping an eye on your diversity gaps. How do you look for and find these diverse applicants and, above all, how can you retain them? The former can only occur if we switch to active measures via slogans, catchphrases and leaflets – which are passive.
Active action involves going where different populations are and educating them about the benefits of joining your hospital or organization. A good place to start would be historically black colleges and universities, as well as early preparatory schools in underserved communities. Once candidates are attracted, retention and nurturing need to happen, and this is best done by the dedicated and motivated people in and around your company. In this way, sponsors and mentors, often members of the dominant group, can provide access to networks and resources that might otherwise be inaccessible.
Maintaining a more diverse workforce
The promotion of black vets to senior management positions within the organization signals that your company has a future for employees from minorities beyond associated and middle management. This additional investment and representation helps attract diverse candidates and makes minority employees more likely to have an advocate at the top and someone to bring their concerns to. Some organizations have instead chosen to create posts to be filled by persons belonging to minorities, which are usually posts dealing with the recruitment of minority candidates.
While this is better than nothing and a step in the right direction, it creates 2 problems. Firstly, there is the false impression that if the responsible minority worker who is tasked with promoting the recruitment of minority candidates in the organization cannot do this, then there must be no problem or nothing really can be done. Second, it sends the message that the company does not value a Person of Color’s input outside of the inherent factor of race. If so, why not promote them to an already established, more impactful role within the organization?
A better approach to addressing diversity needs within organizations would be to create a task force made up of many different voices from different backgrounds. Everything else suggests that diversity and inclusion are issues that only minorities need to address. Remember, when we do nothing, the system is designed to produce outcomes that are favorable to the dominant group (the status quo).
If change is to be made a thoughtful and energetic approach is required to counteract the ubiquitous and ubiquitous nature of racism. The best way to do this is to program ourselves to actively engage in our pursuit of a more diverse and inclusive profession.
Charles D. McMillan, DVM, is a veterinarian for IndeVets and lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Graduated from Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012, he has a keen interest in promoting public understanding of veterinary medicine, finding ways to promote a healthy ecosystem in the veterinary workplace, and researching workable solutions to to make veterinary medicine more diverse and fairer. You can find him on Instagram @yourfavoritepetdoc or visit his website at www.doctorthinker.com.
- US Census Bureau. Microdata. Retrieved July 14, 2021 https://datausa.io/profile/soc/veterinarians#demographics
- Bonilla-Silva E. Racism Without Racists: Color Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. 4th ed. Rowman & Littlefield; 2013.
- John F. Dovidio and Samuel L. Gaertner, “Aversive Racism”, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 36 (2004), 18.