I spoke Spanish before I could speak English. My father was from the Dominican Republic, and my mother was a political refugee from Chile. I was raised in a multi-ethnic family as a first-generation American. When I was four years old, I attended a small community preschool in Salem, New Hampshire. I was one of the darker-skinned students in the class. I remember a few kids made fun of the way I talked and looked. I went home, told my parents, and refused to speak Spanish ever again.
My parents have always instilled the importance of education so, it makes sense that I have a lifelong love of questioning, challenging and learning. Last month I attended a Racial Equity Institute (REI) two-day virtual workshop. REI is an alliance of trainers, organizers and institutional leaders devoted to creating racially equitable organizations and systems. Its mission is to train individual leaders to understand our issues and biases and develop tools to challenge patterns of power and grow equity.
In the height of the Black Lives Matter movement and the killing of George Floyd, I felt compelled to attend the workshop because I wanted to understand this perspective more deeply. If Rarebreed aims to be the employer of choice, we must be a community where everybody belongs independent of race, gender, sexual orientation, neurodiversity or native language.
I had to reflect big time.
Reflection #1: Only One Voice at the Table
As uncomfortable as it was, I took a hard look at the Rarebreed leadership team. It is predominantly composed of white men with one woman. I also studied our board, comprised of all white men from finance. Okay— we have some work to do. We have to make a concerted effort to unravel this uniformity. I know in my heart that Rarebreed will be better served and will better provide for our community, employees, pet owners and patients if we have more voices at the table with varied experiences, upbringings, and perspectives.
Reflection #2: Why Different Voices Count
Our experiences inform how we see the world. If everyone has similar backgrounds, we get minimal diversity of thought. When we all think the same way, and there is “one voice,” we miss vital vantage points and share the same blind spots, which can be massive! I know companies that excel make decisions by taking the time to consider a multitude of points of view.
Reflection #3: Take Action
A few months ago, we created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee comprised of leaders from the Rarebreed veterinary practice community and within Rarebreed headquarters. My hope is we put together actionable items that can help increase diversity and inclusiveness in our ranks and, frankly, in our profession. I attended the REI workshop to stretch my understanding of personal biases. But there was more. I wanted to know how I could help our leaders see deficiencies, identify gaps, and become frontrunners in this equity space, despite the uncomfortable feelings. At Rarebreed, our mission is to welcome and provide exceptional work experiences for everyone. Damos la bienvenida y respetamos a todos.