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Diversity and Inclusion Explored in Animal Health WILMAH Panel at AVDA

By Pam Foster
May, 2018

“What specific actions do you take as a leader to create and sustain an inclusive culture within your team/company?”

This is just one of the many questions asked during a frank and inspiring panel discussion hosted by Women in Leadership and Management in Animal Health (WILMAH). The panel — presented on May 6, 2018 in conjunction with the 2018 American Veterinary Distributors Association (AVDA) Conference — featured leading representatives from manufacturers and distributors, including:

    • Renee Hall, Head of Commercial Excellence, BI
    • Mary Pat Thompson, Vice President of Financial Affairs, MWI
    • Margan Mulvaney, Executive Director of Human Resources, Merck
    • Doug Jones, President of Companion Animal, Patterson
    • Moderator: Julie Lawless, Sr. Director, Corporate Affairs, Elanco


      WILMAH Panel at AVDA
                          * From Left to Right: Margan Mulvaney, Doug Jones, Renee Hall, Mary Pat Thompson, Julie Lawless

The mission of the discussion?

To build awareness about diversity and its value in the animal health industry and beyond.

When asked if inclusion was a trend, panelists were quick to state that indeed it’s not. Instead, they noted that it’s important to manage inclusion as the industry seeks to attract new talent; it’s a business necessity and a competitive edge to offer a welcoming, inclusive workforce. 

The panel also discussed intent… deliberately creating more transparency and opportunity for all employees, along with forums for all to speak up, and role models representing diversity.

When it comes to advice on advocating for diversity in your own culture, the panelists shared a wide range of ideas. These included:

  • Point out strengths to women and minorities in the workforce so they are recognized
  • Knock down barriers by fostering support for someone (women and minorities) taking a leadership role
  • Have honest, open discussions, sharing stories where diversity brings positive change
  • Encourage others, telling them what they can do to support diversity
  • Schedule time to focus on diversity, or it gets lost
  • Having high-profile successful women and minorities speak at events and lead initiatives
  • Clearly demonstrate to your team that you’re committed
  • Make sure it’s not a non-diverse group talking about diversity
  • Data is your ally – use it to track trends that reveal hidden bias and progress

When asked about challenges as an advocate, panel members noted that initial enthusiasm for an initiative can wane as time goes by, it can be difficult to have discussions with team members who aren’t as open, and it’s sometimes easy to get distracted from the mission. 

Looking beyond these challenges, the panel conveyed positive, uplifting messages with advice for all: get involved, support and lead efforts to foster diversity in your workplace, and be bold.

In short, there’s room for everyone to step up and shine, and we can take a leadership role in making this happen.

In case you’re not familiar with WILMAH — its purpose is, “To build a community of women who aspire to inspire and develop our current and future generations of female leaders in the Animal Health industry. WILMAH’s goal is to create a culture of passionate leaders in animal health investing in each other through shared journeys and practical, professional development.”

You’re invited to join WILMAH and discover a community that’s all about helping you become successful. Even better, you’re encouraged to take a leadership role in WILMAH, in your company, and in the industry. Perhaps you’ll find your voice, find a mentor, take a risk, step forward, and be inspired to make a big difference.

Topics: WILMAH, AVDA, Conferences and Trade Shows

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