Integrating Providers of Marginalized Identities into Your Practice: *Some* Questions to Ask Yoursel
Updated: Apr 29
As a Health at Every Size provider and business owner, who values and affirms diversity, social justice, and equality, I believe it is important to hire employees, independent contractors, and staff of marginalized identities. An important piece of increasing access to care for marginalized clients is increasing representation and visibility of providers of marginalized identities.
It is important to do this in an intentional way so as not to *use* or exploit providers of marginalized identities as token members of the business but instead to work *with* and *center* their voice, insight, suggestions, needs, strengths, and career goals. It is important, as Dianne Bondy explains, to include providers and staff of marginalized identities as “members versus guests,” so they do not have to question whether they are “valued for your work, talent, and ability or if you are being used as a token for mass marketing” (words of Ivy Felicia).
Fellow White allies with body privilege, I AM NOT AN EXPERT and I continue to make mistakes. As a White woman with a lot of body privilege, my intent here is simply to share some of the questions I have asked myself and continue to ask myself as I challenge myself to grow and be a better provider and business owner. My practice is about to bring on another skilled clinician who happens to be a person of color. Below are some of the questions I’ve asked myself in the past when bringing on providers of marginalized identities. They are informed by the wisdom, teaching, and insight I’ve learned from thought leaders like José Villalba, Vivian Barnette, Denisha Champion, Janee Avent, Anne Eisenberg, Shawn Spurgeon, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ijeoma Oluo, Desiree Adaway, and so many clients whose wisdom is imprinted on me. Some of the above names are ones you might recognize and whose work you can find publicly, whereas others are not widely known and yet are thought leaders and change leaders within their professional and personal spheres. I encourage you (and I) to continue seeking out mentors, authors, supervisors, trainers, “experts,” employees, collaborators, students, etc. who represent a variety of identities and who can challenge us to think in more dialectic ways.
Let me know if you have suggestions for other questions I should ask myself or books, podcasts, webinars, thought leaders you have found helpful. Best wishes on your practice!
****How can I seek to have a practice of therapists who represent a diversity of backgrounds and marginalized identities?
****How can I integrate her (him/them) into my business in a way that welcomes, integrates, listens to, and learns from her (his/their) voice.
****When helping to write their web copy, how can I be mindful of not “whitewashing” her (his/their) words and voice?
****How can I be intentional not to *use* her (his/them) as a token member of the business but instead to work *with* and *center* her (his/their) voice, insight, suggestions, needs, strengths, career goals, etc.?
****How can I create business policies and practices that are inclusive and socially just (from policies re: dress to reimbursement to time off, etc).
****As clinical supervisor, how can I sensitively/bravely broach issues like race, gender identity, privilege, power dynamics, etc AND create space where she (he/they) is able to broach these topics when/if needed?
****How and with whom can I connect them that might have more insight and lived experience wisdom than I, to provide consultation when needed?
****How can I be mindful that as the White *boss* I cannot ever claim for it to be a *safe* work environment but I can commit to working on it being a socially/racially just, accessible, and inclusive one?
****When providing constructive feedback, how can I do so in a way that is intentional and mindful of the inherent power and unsafety dynamics?
****How can I create a working relationship wherein, she/he/they can feel able to provide me constructive feedback when needed? And wherein I can be open to hearing, absorbing, and acting upon that feedback?
****How can I continue to be open to seeing how I am or have been wrong, have operated from bias or privilege, have misspoke, have been the recipient of advantages because of my White privilege?
****How can I maintain a sense of humility of knowing that
I will inevitably err, misspeak, not understand, not *get it,*
be willing to work on avoiding this harm,
AND be willing to own responsibility and repair when I’ve done harm?
****How can I maintain a sense of humility of knowing my mere existence as a White, able-bodied, smaller-bodied, cis-heteronormative, higher-educated woman affords me power and privilege others may not experience and that together with my position of *boss,* an inherent unsafety and unequal power dynamic exists for someone of marginalized identity who works for me. Maintaining awareness of this, how can I be willing to listen and learn from providers of marginalized identities for how I can create a more socially/racially just work environment?
****What important questions am I leaving out? Am I asking the *right* questions? How does my privilege prevent me from knowing what I do not know?
****Who can I seek to learn from that has lived experience as a provider and/or business owner of marginalized identity? When reading business books, attending workshops or webinars, following social media accounts, am I seeking out a diverse representation of sources to learn from?