Helping our profession embrace inclusion and diversity

[Dan Makin talks about his one big goal as president of the British Vet LGBT+ Group]

I graduated in 2003 from the University of Glasgow and first went to work in a mixed animal practice before moving to New Zealand to work as a horse vet. After I returned to the UK, I eventually became the Joint Venture Partner at Vets4Pets Poole Holes Bay. It had always been my ambition to own my own practice, and I’ve been so fortunate to reach this goal. I’m lucky to work with an amazing team, and our practice is growing and getting busier every day.

I recently became president of the British Veterinary Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender group. We held our first AGM just after the 2016 BSAVA Congress and that year, we matched at London Pride, the first time a veterinary group participated in such an event in the UK. Our membership is comprised of a wide range of veterinary professionals, and as a group, we link to similar groups in other countries. We’ve also developed a student association, and we now have presence in every single vet school.

We are very much aiming to be an association where people can seek support for themselves and others and where employers and groups and other associations can seek support from us regarding the promotion of diversity and inclusion.

We are very much aiming to be an association where people can seek support for themselves and others and where employers and groups and other associations can seek support from us regarding the promotion of diversity and inclusion.

 

The younger generations are more diverse and open about their sexuality and their gender, and they expect to bring their full self to work. There is a proportion of new vet graduates and new vet nurses who come from a society that is completely open and tolerant. These individuals can then find themselves in an employment situation that may not be as open. They may encounter peers and colleagues who have preconceived idea, attitudes and behaviours. I think a portion of the problems encountered come from a lack of information. My goal is for us to provide this information. The one big goal I have as president is for the group to produce and circulate a document that provides information, help and advice to individuals and businesses.

The British LGBT+ group is passionate about veterinary practises being safe places for people to work. In 2017, we completed a member survey that highlighted that some students encounter discrimination and bullying when they are out in placement. Given the recruitment, retention and mental health challenges our profession faces, we need everyone to truly provide a safe, fun and tolerant workplace so we can attract every single person for each role available and to look to keep them. This takes time, education and an attitude shift. I’m hoping our group can help.

I believe everyone needs to be aware of their language so that something that may sound blasé to passing comment isn’t going to cause unintended harm. This is my aim. For example, if someone perhaps asked me, “What does your wife do?”, I would make light of it and would hope that this person learned from their mistake. But, someone else may find this upsetting, and if they’re faced with it every day, they may be nervous being themselves and bringing their full self to work.

I’ve noticed an increase in the awareness of diversity and inclusion across society, with more signification bodies such as the BVA and RCVS now having set up diversity and inclusion groups. The BVA working group also covers religion, ethnic diversity, gender, and minority groups. It’s really encouraging to see that this entire, wider issue is being taken seriously. The BVA also recently completed a discrimination survey, and I’m very interested in reading the results and understanding the problem level within our profession.

The LGBT+ community is a small proportion of the amazing and beautiful population we have in our society and profession, which also includes ethnic and religious diversity and those who suffer from chronic diseases.

Our society is a melting pot, and we need to embrace and welcome everyone and treat everyone fairly and equally. The LGBT+ group is a little piece in a big jigsaw.  

Our society is a melting pot, and we need to embrace and welcome everyone and treat everyone fairly and equally. The LGBT+ group is a little piece in a big jigsaw.

 

One thing that’s been highlighted to me is that the vet profession is playing catch up when compared to other professions. I know from meetings I’ve attended, there are still owners of vet practices who feel it’s a bad thing to encourage diversity. You’d think it’s a no brainer. It’s upsetting that there are still individuals who see it as a threat. I’m hopeful that by being a vet and a practice owner and president of this group, I can help our profession to more quickly embrace diversity and inclusion. We have a little way to go.

I recently attended the Stonewall Workplace Conference, which was amazing. The most positive thing for me was seeing such a vast representation from all sorts of businesses and industries that all wanted to be there at this one event. That was incredibly inspiring, motivating, and it just made you want to make the world a better place. If all of these people are here at this particular event on this one day, how many other people are out there? It gives you such encouragement to the future, and it makes you realise that those who don’t want to adopt to a diversity and inclusion way of thinking are going to be in the increasing minority.

It’s an exciting time, and I’m sure that probably in 5-10 years, the vet profession will be in a very different place and in a good way.

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