Pride at VEG: Dedication to Inclusion
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As a white, cisgender male Hospital Manager in a predominantly white (like, 90% white) industry, my commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion is something that brought me to Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) in the first place.
My VEG Story
Let’s rewind. We’re rewinding back to February 18th.
I know that feels like a literal decade ago at this point.
I connected via Zoom with Dr. David Bessler (Founder/CEO) and David Glattstein (President) as the final interview of the hiring process to become a Hospital Manager for VEG. I drank coffee from an oversized llama mug that said “Como Se Llama?” while sitting in my tiny home office with my dog at my feet. We spoke about my history in retail management and how the experience I have in customer service, people development, and operational efficiency would be a tool for my success at VEG. The conversation pivoted to the values that drive us and corporate cultures.
I shared my desire to join a company that had real, tangible, human values that are visible in everything they do. I also shared with them the intimate story of my partner and I driving through Chicago days after George Floyd had been murdered in Minneapolis. That particular conversation took many twists and turns to different topics, including the search for the next step of my career.
My partner looked over from the driver seat while at a red light and said, “You need to be at a values driven organization.”
Thankfully, sharing this information to the Founder/CEO and President of VEG during my final interview was as welcomed, and normal, as talking about my leadership style, my track record of business results, and how I would help develop their second hospital in Chicago.
Why Inclusion and Diversity are Important to Me and VEG
A few months into my time at VEG, I had the opportunity to share an inspirational speech to my leadership development class (aka VEG Academy) where we were asked to simply, “speak from the heart.”
The topic I chose: Why do I make a commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace?
Because I remember what it felt like to not belong. I remember the mental pain I felt pulling myself out of bed in the morning before school knowing that the day was going to be wrought with endless teasing, questions, and jeers about my sexuality. I remember how often I would lie about the things that interested me because I didn’t want to bring any more attention to myself.
Even still to this day I have trouble being fully authentic on some topics for fear of being judged as a gay man in this country. The trauma and pain are long-lasting.
The least I can do is ensure that I’m creating a diverse and inclusive place where every other VEGgie belongs. Sometimes the work to create a more diverse and inclusive place is educating your staff on:
- Does your staff know what the acronym LGBTQIA+ stands for?
- Does your staff know the difference between gender identity and gender expression?
- Does your staff know that the sex we are assigned at birth can differ from our gender identity?
- Does your staff know why it is not grammatically incorrect to use they/them/their pronouns for non-binary people?
- Does your company provide the option for people to list their pronouns?
One of the most consequential things you can do for many members of the LGBTIA+ community is working to create a safe place for them to share their full identity with you by normalizing the sharing of pronouns. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, 41 percent of transgender individuals have reported attempting suicide, compared to 4.6 percent among the general population.
And further, according to The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health, Transgender and Non-Binary youth who reported having their pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.
So, what does this look like in action?
How VEG Encourages Everyone to be Comfortable Sharing and Using Their Pronouns
Here at VEG we have many options available to help us with erasing any fear behind sharing our pronouns – even as a cisgender individual.
Below are a few options where VEG gives the opportunity for people to share their pronouns:
On our job applications, we have the ability for candidates to opt in to sharing their pronouns.
Our customers can choose their pronouns to be listed on their profile in our software via our registration link.
Pronoun Pins for VEG Team Members
On our VEG Store (where we buy our scrubs and other swag) we have pronoun pins available.
Many VEGgies choose to place their pronouns in their Zoom name.
Introductions During VEG Team Meetings
During many meetings where personal introductions are made, it’s quite common for us to state our pronouns after saying our name.
Internal Group Dedicated to DEI Work Within VEG
Additionally, we have an internal group that is open to everybody at VEG that is committed to furthering the awareness and importance of DEI work. They’ve created documents to help support the education process around many of the terms that are so common within our community’s vernacular but may be new for others.
VEG’s Continued Dedication to Openness and Togetherness
I proudly share this information not because I think VEG is already perfect in regards to all things DEI, but because I think it’s a fantastic representation of two of our core values – Openness and Togetherness. The way in which every VEGgie openly welcomes this important, and lifesaving work towards a more inclusive workplace continues to inspire me.
The next time you’re getting ready to meet somebody new, consider the way you introduce yourself.
“Hi there! My name is Alexander. I am a Hospital Manager here at VEG and my pronouns are he/him/his.”
It’s a simple statement with a profound impact.