On pride and prejudice.

Passion drives progress.

On National Coming Out Day, 2019, nearly 50 passionate Bader Rutter employees met with agency leadership to address how we could become more intentional in adopting diversity and inclusion. We sat down and began the tough conversations, talking vulnerably about how we could do better and be better. We discussed pride and prejudice; diversity and inclusion; and, ultimately, the simple but profound goal of truly belonging. It was a powerful, impactful first step. Since then, this devoted group of colleagues have dedicated themselves to developing a plan of action. I am honored to be their executive co-sponsor along with our COO Linda Hogan.

Pride

As a gay man in agriculture, D&I is a deeply personal issue. My memories of my journey as a dairy-loving kid in a tiny American farm town where I thought no one else was like me was accompanied by a constant internal refrain of “What’s wrong with me?” I didn’t believe the duality of being a gay man and a career in ag could ever co-exist. Then I landed at Bader Rutter, a place that loved agriculture and did not care who I loved. For the first time, I felt like I could belong. That feeling was powerful, that assurance was everything. And that is why I, and so many others, continue to push forward every day to ensure Bader Rutter is a place where everyone can feel they belong too.

Prejudice

No societal topic is more urgent today than racial prejudice. As a company, Bader Rutter is committed to not let racism, or the violence that spills from it, silence us. We stand with our Black teammates and communities and recognize that the color of one’s skin should not impact how they are treated, either inside or outside our walls. At the same time, we recognize that bias very much does. As we encourage honest conversations about racism, unconscious bias, and the ways it manifests in our lives, our industry, and the communities where we live and do business, we must also encourage empathy and patience with each other.

Progress

At Bader Rutter, we outlined four ways we will practice our commitment: Learn More; Listen Harder; Change Faster; and Give More. Here’s how we define them:

Learn More means BR supports each employee’s process of self-discovery about topics related to diversity, inclusion and belonging. We will do this by providing resources and opportunities for employees to educate themselves. We began by closing our office Friday, June 5, and providing resources so every employee could begin doing this.

Listen Harder means BR leadership commits to listening to employees about topics related to diversity, inclusion and belonging, and encourages employees to have open and honest conversations with each other. We will do this by providing a range of feedback channels and spaces for discussion.

Change Faster means BR will execute an action plan to become a more diverse and inclusive organization that fosters a sense of belonging. We will do this by providing training for our employees, implementing talent acquisition plans and critically tracking our progress for accountability.

Give More means BR invests in supporting diversity, inclusion and belonging, and encourages employees to do the same. We will do this by offering our employees service days, partnering with local organizations on pro-bono work and making monetary donations.

Personally

My personal belief is that in any conversation, the best way to be heard is to start by listening. REALLY listening, until our heads hurt, our hearts swell, and we begin to understand. As leaders, if we commit to listening to hard and uncomfortable conversations on topics too long ignored, we will make genuine progress. We will create a culture where we celebrate our people for their unique differences. More critically, we will create places where everyone is equal and can belong.

Typically, June is the month where I march for LGBTQ+ equality in Pride parades, but this year, I joined the Black community to march against racism. And I’m reminded that whatever rights and acceptance the LGBTQ+ community has today resulted from the incredible bravery of a Black transwoman. Marsha P. Johnson was the first to raise her fist the night of the Stonewall riot. And, yes, it’s important to remember that the first Pride event began with a riot, which paved the way for us to celebrate Pride today.

To my network, I invite you to start or join these conversations.

Let yours be a voice for equality and anti-racism, ringing loud and proud. There is much work that needs to be done for equality issues for the Black community as well as the LGBTQ+ community and the job is ours for the taking. If you have thoughts and would like to talk, I’m here and I’m listening.

P.S.

As part of our agency’s focus on learning, our D&I Leadership Council shared this list of  suggested materials. I found it extremely helpful, you may too.

Books to read:

How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer Eberhardt

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners: books for children and young adults: Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given to outstanding African American authors who illustrate books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.

Content to watch:

13th directed by Ava DuVernay (also on Netflix)

5 Tips For Being An Ally by Franchesca Ramsey

The Urgency of Intersectionality by Kimberlé Crenshaw

Articles to investigate:

Why We Need to Talk About Race

Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life

Why Black Workers Really Do Need to be Twice as Good

Being Black in the Workplace

Podcasts to listen to:

Mama Bear’s Seven Month Curriculum To Become A Better Ally

1619 (New York Times)

Code Switch (NPR)

About the Author

A member of the Bader Rutter Executive Leadership Team, David Jordan leads the BR Business Consultancy Group. His eclectic group includes MBAs, a former CMO from an entrepreneurial investment group, a veterinarian and the former commercial operations leader for a multi-billion-dollar business unit of a Fortune 500 company. The BR Business Consultancy Group consults with both inline and specialty clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to innovative startups in food & beverage, agribusiness and pet care.