a woman kneeling next to her dog
The first-ever online Animal Care Expo covered a slew of timely topics, notes Amy Nichols. Photo by Michelle Riley/The HSUS

We were thrilled that so many of you were able to participate in Animal Care Expo Online, held July 22-24. This has been a year of rapid change in animal welfare, and many of our Expo sessions addressed the “new normal” we are experiencing. In addition to COVID-19, we have also seen intense social upheaval challenging the status quo across the country. As part of Expo, we wanted to provide a few starting points for what may be difficult, but very important, conversations taking place in homes and at work.

Our special session “The power of inclusion” featured Carin Taylor, chief diversity officer for Workday, a financial and human capital management firm. She provided us a clear course of action to get us more “comfortable being uncomfortable” and to help us address the importance of diversity, inclusion and belonging in our organizations.

She also defined terms we regularly hear but might not fully understand.

Diversity, for example, is a measure.

One of her recommendations was to first look at the data—what is the current makeup of your team? Does it represent a variety of backgrounds? Does your team match the community you are serving? Diversity includes both the external features of a person, such as skin color, but also the internal, such as education level. By determining which characteristics and traits your team may be lacking, you can focus on how to create a more inclusive environment to better attract and retain new employees.

Inclusion is a behavior.

Inclusiveness is part of your culture, and it represents how welcome employees feel at your organization. Recognizing a variety of religious and cultural holidays, for example, is a great way to be more inclusive. To increase inclusivity at your organization, solicit ideas not only from leadership but also from board members and employees at all levels.

Belonging is a feeling.

It is human nature to want to belong to groups that reflect our personal values, and that group membership helps us to identify who we are. If you feel you are an integral part of a group, the sense of belonging is even stronger. Celebrating successes, even in the smallest way, acknowledges the team effort. Developing a healthy sense of competition through collective achievement of organizational goals is another way to strengthen the bonds between team members, and may ultimately lead to increased connection to the organization and its mission.

With our shared love of animals guiding us, we can build a more inclusive, diverse field, where both our commonalities and our differences are valued.

The amazing advantage we have in animal welfare is our collective love of animals. With this shared value guiding us, we can build a more inclusive, diverse field, where both our commonalities and our differences are valued.

“When you know better, you do better” is my new mantra, and I am happy to share it with all of you.

Stay safe and be well.

About the Author

Amy Nichols

Amy Nichols is the vice president of the Companion Animals section at the Humane Society of the United States. In 2002, Nichols founded Dogtopia, a dog daycare, boarding, spa and retail chain, which she grew via franchising to nearly 40 locations in the U.S. and Canada before selling it in 2015.

Nichols is also the founder of K9 Support, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting working and service dogs, which sent more than two tons of care packages to military K9s in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait and has sponsored the training of service dogs for veterans.

Amy lives in Prosper, Texas, with her husband, four children, adopted dog and adopted guinea pigs. Learn more about Amy here.

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