It is sometimes hard for me to admit that it took the results of the 2016 presidential election for me to wake up to the racial inequities that exist in this country and to begin in earnest to go on a journey to learn more.
The extent of self-examination I embarked upon, given my white woman status, continues to shake me to the core. One of the many types of awareness I gained is that I couldn’t just strive for change in my personal life, but had to make huge changes in my veterinary business as well.
I started by having my entire staff and myself attend a Reframing Racism training with focus follow-up sessions. In addition, I hired a racial equity facilitator, Ashnie Butler of Inner Work Outer Play, to work closely with each member of our team and facilitate newly formed monthly staff equity meetings.
We focus firstly on how to make our clinic environment an equitable and inclusive place to work at, where each team member is supported with what they need, recognizing that not everyone has the same needs. We also now make daily check-ins a priority to ensure we all have the support we need to allow us to provide excellent veterinary care to our precious patients.
Our biggest lesson has been that anti-racist work is personal, and that it is necessary for each one of us to identify how we show up and how we promote white dominant culture and work practices, while we work towards aligning our organizational structure and practices more closely with our equity goals and values.
Historically, the veterinary medicine career space was white male dominated, and only recently white women are establishing a majority position in the veterinary profession. In our work we are striving to support women of color (WOC) wanting to enter the veterinary field.
I do want to point out that we are a small clinic with less than ten employees, and yet it is crucially important for us to continue working on unpacking how racism affects each one of us and it’s harmful impact on People of Color. No business is too small to have a racial equity plan! As a white woman, my path to economic success was not hindered because of my skin color, I was in fact given more access because of it. And if you are a white small business owner like me, let’s support each other in growing an equitable future for everyone, and especially for folks who have historically been underserved!
~ Dr. Conny Wagner
In deepest gratitude to all the people who are teaching me so much about how to regain my humanity:
Other Resources, News and Guides for Racial Equity in the Veterinary Field
- Cleveland’s first veterinary clinic owned by an African American woman opening in Fairfax
- National Association of Black Veterinarians: The NABV is committed to increasing the number of black veterinarians in the field through professional development and resources.
- Why We Need to Talk About Racism, Prejudice and Dog Rescue
- Addressing Racial Equity with an Organizational Change Lens
- Build Your Own Racial Equity Resource Guide