A Journey of Diversity and Inclusion
05.18.21 Jared RetzlaffAislinn BartholomayNoah Arndt-Kelber
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Verna Myers
Here at Filament, we feel diversity and inclusion is a critical area for every person, company and organization to take a closer look at. Our core values of “making a difference” and “breaking barriers” wouldn’t truly be lived if we weren’t open to learning, growing, speaking up and educating others on this vital topic.
Keep reading to hear three Filamentarians’ perspectives on diversity and inclusion.
Growing up in rural America instilled in me many skills — grit, determination, perseverance. But sometimes missing were skills like tolerance, acceptance and understanding. The lack of experience with these skillsets can lead to misunderstandings and rejection of those different than us. When I left for college, I was exposed to underrepresented communities — both in agriculture and other industries — which led to incredible personal growth.
The greatest learnings came from my time as a national student leader for Agriculture Future of America (AFA). Students across the country received extensive diversity and inclusion training, demonstrating what it means to be an inclusive leader in agriculture.
My collegiate experience was incredible, but I recognize my diversity and inclusion journey has no end. Instead, it’s important to bring back what I’ve learned to the industry, help others on their journey and grow my mindset when confronted with new information.
Inclusion is an important topic for me due to being exposed to others with diverse backgrounds throughout my life. I’ve had wonderful role models from a variety of different backgrounds, experiences and identities and learned from friends who see the world through unique perspectives based on their own lives.
My diversity and inclusion journey started in childhood — in part because of my experiences being treated differently or made to feel less for being a woman, being queer, coming from a non-traditional family or having long-term mental and physical health challenges.
There’s beauty in diversity, as well as strength, flexibility and knowledge. We cannot access those advantages if we don’t allow each and every person to express themselves and their needs as individuals. If we continue to strive to learn more, experience more, ask more, wonder more and give more to those who are not the same as us, the possibilities for what we can accomplish are limitless.
One aspect of my culture is the concept of Tikkun Olam, which means “repairing the world.” This has always served as a reminder for me to strive to do good and sharing my experiences through diversity and inclusion initiatives is one way to help make a difference.
It’s important for me as an ethnic minority and someone without a direct connection to agriculture before joining the Filament team to ensure others who don’t fit the typical agriculture mold feel comfortable and accounted for. Although we work in a niche audience, it’s essential to incorporate outside perspectives and not view agriculture in a bubble.
The agriculture industry is incredibly warm and welcoming with an amazing breadth of knowledge to share. The difficulty, in my eyes, lies in explaining the industry to people in an easy-to-understand way. When communication breaks down, there can be misunderstandings. I truly believe we make better work and are more engaged if everyone feels seen and heard.
The agriculture industry isn’t going to change if we aren’t willing to change ourselves. Now is the time to challenge thoughts and behaviors to build a more inclusive industry — and a more inclusive world.