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Ignite Inclusion: Sahina Dizon’s Story

By: Pui Wong, Compass One Healthcare Communications & Social Media Intern

When the Workplace Feels Like a Battlefield

Imagine your boss says you and your coworkers are good for nothing but being lazy and stealing. The thought might seem absurd, but for Sahina Dizon, it was painfully real—it actually happened at her old job. Now a Corporate Executive Chef with Morrison, Sahina reflects on her experience with diversity and inclusion (or lack thereof) in the workplace.

Sahina never felt so ready to leave a job as she did when she quit working for a competitor in a hospital 11 years ago. With an account director who was “extremely racist, homophobic, sexist and overall oppressive,” Sahina dreaded going to work every day where an environment of fear was instilled. As if calling employees “trained monkeys” wasn’t bad enough, the director would directly retaliate if he felt his reports misbehaved, didn’t like somebody or faced someone who was brave enough to complain. He would do so by changing employees’ shifts or positions, or simply by taking hours away to the point that they might as well not go to work.

“It was a total conflict at my core to come to work every day,” Sahina says. “Each day showed more and more dysfunction.” Her coworkers noticed she was a different kind of leader and started to confide in her. One day, the director made another racist comment. Sahina could no longer stay quiet. She had only worked there for less than six months, but she had reached her breaking point. She felt that she could not continue to be a victim of the abuse and more importantly, she could not continue watching the same abuse happen to good people who were doing a great job despite a toxic environment.

Speaking Up and Moving Forward

So Sahina spoke up. Long story short: HR investigations ensued, employees were threatened and eventually she was removed from her position and given 30 days to find another job within the company. But Sahina was done—she chose to move on, which in retrospect, she says is the best decision she has ever made. If something good came out of the experience, it was that it helped Sahina embrace differences, stand up to the idea of inequality and injustice and recognize differences and strength.

Soon afterwards, Sahina joined Morrison as an Executive Chef at LAC+USC Medical Center. Today she is a Corporate Executive Chef supporting retail program creation and culinary initiatives. Having worked for Morrison for 11 years, Sahina says the comparison between her old and current jobs is black and white, correct and incorrect. Though every company, position and relationship has its own challenges, everyone deserves to be treated with respect, period. She says she now works with people who have a unified vision and who are willing to take risks, have hard conversations, make corrections, take action, keep moving forward and repeat as needed.

According to Sahina, the Morrison culinary team is a unique balance of old and new school. As it grows, team members have become more open to talking about real issues like leveling the field, developing female chefs and balancing the scope of influence not just by big titles, but rather by ideas, best practices, inclusion and experience. At times it can be beautiful or difficult to watch changes unfold, but Sahina considers it her honor to witness them firsthand and she would not change her experience for anything. “Not only has it given me knowledge and experience, but it also expanded my empathy and fearless courage to be a change agent,” she says.

In Search of an Equal and Fair Way to Include Everyone

Today’s world is imbued with personal perspectives and agendas, so it’s essential to have guidelines to balance personal perspectives in an equal and fair way that includes everyone, Sahina says. She believes that Compass is continuing to invest time and energy in creating an inclusive environment through its ever-evolving training opportunities, “out loud” messaging and awareness campaigns.

Sahina is a board member of Compass One Healthcare’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Council (DIAC), an action-oriented advisory committee that champions diversity and inclusion. Its members are change agents—their efforts help us sustain our competitive market advantages and promote diversity and inclusion awareness, education and associate engagement across the organization.

Sahina thinks it’s powerful and humbling to work alongside people who make it a priority to be the difference. “It takes courage, humility and a willing spirit,” she says, adding that she always seeks to practice what she preaches. Sometimes this means speaking up in a situation or a conversation that is not the most inclusive and taking the risk to call it out.

“It’s an awesome responsibility and a humble challenge to first check myself and my posture, model the correct expression and show up as what it should look like. It is by no means perfect, but I am open and willing to do it, be the best I can each day and maybe help someone else along the way.”

Bringing Out the Best in Everyone

Sahina believes that when we create an inclusive environment, we get the best of the best because people are willing to be the best they can be when they are respected and supported.

“We as humans stay in a constant state of judging each conversation and situation, and sometimes that gets in the way of who we really are,” she says. “When we can liberate ourselves, feel free and be accepted for who we are, we can realize our potential to be more of whatever we say is important.”

Moving forward, Sahina would like to see DIAC focus on female development. “All you hear [about] in the news, headlines and social media is the #MeToo, equal pay and glass ceiling movements. I believe we have an obligation and could have a huge impact as a company to raise awareness and shift the balance on such a sensitive topic.”

Being different is the similarity that we all share. While it remains to be seen whether people can ever achieve full inclusion, if each of us can speak up like Sahina did in the face of exclusivity, we will surely be one step closer.

Looking for more stories of inclusion? Check out our latest ones:

Join the Morrison Healthcare Family

Sahina chose Compass One Healthcare and Morrison because of the opportunities she has to touch the lives of patients and staff. Morrison is a proud part of Compass One Healthcare and Compass Group USA. If you’re interested in a career in healthcare, be sure to check out team member or management opportunities to join the Morrison family through Compass Group Careers.

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