Leading the Occupational Therapy Profession Towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Banks, Tyra M.
Like many national professional organizations, the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) membership does not reflect the national demographics in terms of diversity. Throughout the years, the AOTA has published several position statements and a guidepost highlighting equity, diversity, and inclusion as an area of focus; however, there has never been an action plan to achieve this goal. Through qualitative inquiry (i.e., interviews and focus groups), this Capstone gained insight into how social capital theory projects through Black and Hispanic Occupational Therapy (OT) students' experiences and informs how Critical Race Theory shows up in the narratives of these students. Quantitative data was also obtained via survey to garner the perspective of the OT practitioner. Key findings were identified that contribute to the continued underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic people in the Occupational Therapy Profession. Students reported significant barriers to recruitment include a general lack of awareness about the occupational therapy profession, application screening methods, financial resources, and student support/resources. It was found that occupational therapy programs did not provide adequate support for Black and Hispanic students to persist in their programs. Black and Hispanic OT practitioners also reported their perception of feeling unsupported for leadership roles within AOTA. From recruitment, retention, and leadership pathways, Black and Hispanic people have been systematically neglected and left out of opportunities. To address these findings, a recommended program, including process and outcome evaluations, was developed.