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WHY is it so difficult to talk about race and discrimination in the veterinary profession?
The British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society facilitated a workshop as part of the “Community Mastermind” sessions at London Vet Show to discuss the topic of discrimination in the veterinary profession.
Lack of ethnic diversity is evident throughout the veterinary sector. Only 3 per cent of the UK veterinary profession is non-white (BVA, 2019), despite more than 30 per cent of the “working age” UK population identifying as black, Asian and other ethnic groups (GOV.UK, 2018). Therefore, a goal of the session was to address this under-representation and explore the issues various minority groups were facing in the veterinary profession.
The discussion was led by Jide Fadojutimi, a facilitator and diversity trainer, and attended by a range of delegates that included vets, nurses and paraprofessionals of various ages, ethnicity, gender and sexual diversity.
The mastermind began by small groups examining the problems they have experienced or witnessed related to diversity. Common themes included: lack of representation and racial mirroring in the profession and in the media; abuse from colleagues and clients; regular racial microaggressions; and recruitment barriers.
Following this, groups reported what they liked about their veterinary work, and what they wished they could change. This task demonstrated most people enjoyed their veterinary job, but wished for better remuneration, easier access to veterinary schools for black, Asian and minority ethnic students, and “having their voice heard”.
The session concluded by exploring inclusive leadership and the delegates discussing what they believed was needed from veterinary management. Important qualities of leadership were revealed to be cultural intelligence, commitment, collaboration and cognisance of their own bias.
Employers and organisations play a very important role in promoting diversity, and approaching inequality with transparency, by building a work atmosphere where everyone feels included. Diversity is repeatedly reported to benefit the workplace and enhances productivity, performance and overall well-being (Kornegay, 2011; Guillaume et al, 2017; Kemeny, 2017).
Many people in the veterinary profession may not be aware of the racism their colleagues experience today. However, awareness and education are essential – and lack of tolerance for racist behaviour does not mitigate the systemic and institutional issues that occur for minority students and staff.
Intolerance of hostile behaviours is not the same as genuine equality and opportunity, and veterinary employers need to be aware of the challenges that those from minority backgrounds are facing.
- This article first appeared in Vet Times Volume 50 Issue 9 Page 19
BVA (2019). BVA report on discrimination in the veterinary profession, http://bit.ly/2SH9in6
GOV.UK (2018). Working age population – www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/uk-population-by-ethnicity/demographics/working-age-population/latest
Guillaume YRF et al (2017). Harnessing demographic differences in organizations: what moderates the effects of workplace diversity? Journal of Organizational Behavior 38(2): 276-303.
Kemeny T (2017). Immigrant diversity and economic performance in cities, International Regional Science Review 40(2): 164-208.
Kornegay LM (2011). A business case for diversity and inclusion: why it is important for veterinarians to embrace our changing communities, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 238(9): 1,103-1,105.