The last year has seen a number of significant developments in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across the professions of speech-language pathology, school psychology, and occupational therapy. Prior to the uprising following George Floyd’s murder last May, one would have had to search to find DEI statements from the national organizations representing these professions. Today, prompted by strong advocacy from their members, ASHA, NASP, and AOTA all have dedicated pages on their websites that acknowledge and condemn systemic racism, and outline their DEI initiatives. This is small, but meaningful, progress towards dismantling the systems that perpetuate a largely white, female workforce in these professions.
At The Hello Foundation, we have long had the goal of increasing the percentage of our staff who identify as male and people of color (read our 2016 post and 2017 post). We have now expanded that goal to include folks from all marginalized communities and a wide diversity of lived experiences, with the belief that our ability to provide quality service is directly linked to how closely our workforce reflects the people we serve. Given that 94% of our workforce requires an advanced degree and professional licensure, we have determined that partnering with university programs is the most impactful way we can increase diversity in the professions and therefore our staff.
One way of doing this is to better understand who is admitted into clinical graduate programs and to do that we have been working with Dr. Kerry Mandulak at Pacific University. Dr. Mandulak researches and lectures on Holistic Admissions, a process that takes into account a prospective student’s experiences and attributes in addition to their GRE score and undergrad GPA. We are excited to support this work in any way we can and hope to find other university partners that are piloting similar programs with whom we can partner. Additionally, we are actively working to re-imagine our graduate student experience so that it better serves the needs of these new clinicians, including offering online, in-person, and hybrid clinical internship opportunities to students both locally and outside the Portland-metro area.
In addition to university partnerships, we’re also applying the DEI lens across everything we do, from marketing to professional development. This, of course, is just scratching the surface of the DEI iceberg and we still have a long way to go. We will keep working, keep listening, and keep striving for better, and welcome any and all feedback on how we’re doing.