I genuinely appreciate the opportunity over the last 10 days that I have had to engage in dialogue with others and to reflect on the topic of diversity in the occupational therapy profession; especially diversity in representation in leadership in our professional association.
On December 6th I published a blog post titled “Where is the diversity?” (https://www.brentbraveman.com/blog/where-is-the-diversity) and posted a link to it on Facebook. The blog post has the highest readership of any blog post so far on my website. There have been over 800 unique readers and the Facebook post resulted in quite a bit of discussion. Since then, a number of AOTA members including several students and young leaders in AOTA have also sent me Emails and personal messages to express concerns and share their experiences, opinions and perspectives.
One of the students who Emailed me described some of the comments on Facebook as initially “heated” but gave me props for responding calmly and creating opportunities for dialogue and learning. I hope that is true. I hope that I asked relevant questions to help me understand, and I hope that I listened and learned.
Several of the folks who have contacted me have referred me to resources and blogs by others who have shared perspectives on diversity in the profession and in our leadership. Reading first person narratives has been incredibly instructive and impactful. I am going to reach out to some of these folks and ask if they are okay with me calling attention to their blogs and sites.
I hope that others will use their voices and that the dialogue continues and grows. I have added a page on “Diversity in Occupational Therapy Blogs and Resources” on my website https://www.brentbraveman.com/diversity-in-occupational-therapy-blogs--resources.html. If there is a blog or resource you think I should add please send me the link.
What did I hear and learn over the last 10 days?
I am pretty sure I already knew that last one, but it is good to get a refresher every once in a while and to be reminded of the importance of asking questions and listening. I was also reminded that while I can pull from my own experiences as a member of the LGBT community to empathize with the experience of others, it only takes me so far. Like all of us, I have many traits and characteristics and whatever discrimination I have experienced as a member of the LGBT community has been tempered by also being a white man in today’s society. The experiences of women, of persons of color and of persons with disabilities within the profession have some similarities to my experiences but there are more differences that I can only hope to appreciate if I work hard at listening and understanding.
It is tempting to offer a bulleted list of solutions and a path forward. I have some ideas, and shared some of them in just such a bulleted list in my initial blog post https://www.brentbraveman.com/blog/where-is-the-diversity (and other suggestions have been provided by some of the members who have joined the dialogue in the last 10 days). After all, I am trying to convince members to cast their votes for me to be the next AOTA Vice-President, and, I tend to be action oriented; but after reflecting on the dialogues that I have been involved in over the last 10 days I think that making two commitments is the most important thing I can do.
Thank you to those of you who have spoken out in the last 10 days and I invite others to join in.
The opinions expressed in my blog are personal and neither represent the views of my employer nor any organization.