Embracing the Power of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Veterinary Industry

Unlocking better animal care and building a stronger community of veterinary professionals

The veterinary industry, dedicated to the health and well-being of animals, is a vital component of our society. However, in order to truly fulfill its mission, it must recognize the significance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). These principles foster an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and has equal opportunities.

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Niccole Bruno, the founder of Blend, states, “DEI in practice is honoring the differences within our veterinary teams and then empowering them to utilize their talents for the benefit of veterinary medicine.”

By embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion, the veterinary industry can not only address systemic inequalities but also enhance its capacity to serve diverse communities and improve animal care. Below, we cover the importance of DEI in your clinic and how you can actively implement it with your staff.

Embracing diversity

In the veterinary industry, embracing diversity is crucial for providing comprehensive and effective animal care. Cultural differences play a significant role in shaping our perspectives on animal health, and by understanding and respecting these differences, veterinarians can establish trust and effective communication with clients. Moreover, diversity helps address health disparities among different animal populations, allowing for targeted preventive measures and treatments.

Nicola Parry with dvm360 notes, “Increasing diversity in the veterinary profession also makes good business sense, as it helps meet the needs of a growing population of people who will become the profession’s potential clients.”

Diversity brings together individuals from various backgrounds, each with their own perspectives, experiences, and expertise. This multidimensional understanding of animal health enriches the profession, enabling veterinarians to tackle complex cases, consider innovative treatment options, and contribute to the advancement of veterinary medicine. Additionally, diversity enhances education and research in the industry, fostering an inclusive learning environment and allowing for a broader range of topics to be explored.

A diverse veterinary workforce also plays a pivotal role in community engagement and outreach efforts. By reflecting the diversity within the communities they serve, veterinary professionals can establish stronger connections and foster trust. This inclusivity facilitates effective communication, enables culturally appropriate education on animal care, and encourages community participation in initiatives promoting responsible pet ownership, animal welfare, and public health.

The 2018 McKinsey report found that companies in the top 25% for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quarter. Looking at ethnic and cultural diversity, companies in the top quarter were 33 percent more likely to outperform less diverse competitors.

Promoting equity

AVMA strongly notes, “Creating socially conscious educational and work environments—as well as removing barriers to equity and inclusion—are imperatives for veterinary professionals.”

Promoting equity within the veterinary industry is crucial for creating a fair and just environment where everyone has equal opportunities for success. This involves addressing systemic biases and disparities that may hinder the progress of underrepresented groups.

To promote equity, the industry should focus on addressing hiring practices and ensuring transparency and fairness in recruitment processes. Efforts should be made to actively seek diverse candidates and provide equal access to veterinary education, including scholarships and mentorship programs. By removing financial barriers and providing support to individuals from underprivileged backgrounds, the industry can create a more level playing field for aspiring veterinary professionals.

Dr. Evan Morse found that the two most important factors for veterinary students pursuing a career in the veterinary field are:

1. Acquaintance with a practicing veterinarian.
2. Availability to shadow or intern with a veterinarian.

Promoting equity requires establishing pathways for career advancement and mentorship opportunities. By identifying and dismantling systemic biases that hinder the progression of underrepresented groups, the industry can foster an inclusive and supportive environment for professional growth. Collecting and analyzing demographic data within the industry is essential for monitoring representation and identifying areas that require improvement.

Fostering inclusion

Fostering inclusion in the veterinary industry goes beyond recognizing diversity; it involves creating a workplace culture where everyone feels valued, respected, and involved. This begins with building an environment that promotes open communication, collaboration, and mutual respect. Encouraging diverse perspectives and valuing contributions from all team members allows for innovative problem-solving and improved patient care.

Promoting inclusion also requires diverse leadership and representation within the veterinary industry. Elevating individuals from underrepresented groups to leadership positions and ensuring diverse representation in decision-making processes sends a powerful message of inclusivity. Providing continuous education and training, such as cultural competency programs and implicit bias awareness, equips veterinary professionals with the knowledge and skills to navigate cultural differences and address biases, creating respectful and inclusive interactions.

Fostering inclusion involves collaboration and partnerships with community organizations, advocacy groups, and educational institutions. By actively engaging with diverse communities, veterinary professionals can better understand their unique needs, establish trust, and bridge gaps in accessing veterinary care.

Shandell Maxwell, PhD, a diversity, equity, and inclusion coach and speaker in the veterinary industry shared with dvm360 her thoughts on inclusion in the workplace stating, “Hiring people with transferable skills and increasing awareness about the field to unrepresented groups and providing them employment [are ways] of filling that talent gap.”

Celebrating and valuing differences is paramount. By embracing diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, the veterinary industry can create a supportive and empowering environment where everyone can thrive and contribute their unique talents.

Benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the veterinary industry

1. Improved animal care: Embracing diversity allows for a deeper understanding of the diverse needs and experiences of clients and animal populations. Veterinarians and veterinary professionals from different backgrounds can provide culturally competent care, leading to more effective treatments and better health outcomes for animals.

2. Enhanced problem-solving: Diversity in the veterinary industry brings together individuals with different perspectives and approaches to challenges. This diversity of thought fosters creative problem-solving and innovation, leading to the development of new techniques, treatments, and practices that can improve animal healthcare.

3. Increased cultural competence: The veterinary industry serves a diverse range of clients and communities. By embracing diversity and practicing inclusivity, veterinary professionals can enhance their cultural competence. This includes understanding different cultural beliefs, practices, and values related to animal care, thereby improving client satisfaction and strengthening community relationships.

4. Expanded reach: An inclusive veterinary industry attracts professionals from a variety of backgrounds, including underrepresented groups. This can help expand veterinary services to underserved communities that may have previously faced barriers in accessing care.

Elizabeth LaVallee, Megan Kiely Mueller & Emily McCobb note, “Currently, there is a care gap in veterinary medicine affecting low-income and underserved communities, resulting in decreased nonhuman-animal health and welfare. The use of low-price and community veterinary clinics in underserved populations is a strategy to improve companion-animal health through preventative care, spay/neuter, and other low-price care programs and services.”

Increased representation allows for more effective communication and understanding between veterinarians and clients, ultimately improving animal welfare on a broader scale.

5. Greater professional growth and retention: A diverse and inclusive environment promotes professional growth and job satisfaction. Individuals are more likely to thrive in a workplace that values their unique contributions and provides equal opportunities for career advancement. This, in turn, fosters a supportive and resilient workforce, leading to higher job retention rates and improved overall well-being.

The veterinary industry plays a vital role in ensuring the health and well-being of animals. Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the profession is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage.

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