Rhino Foods has been actively hiring refugees and new Americans for over thirty years. We know that diversity and the inclusion of people from all backgrounds is a powerful way to grow our business and support the local community. Currently, new Americans from Bhutan, Bosnia, Congo, Kenya, Myanmar, Nepal, and Somalia make up 37% of our workforce.
With waves of immigration through the 1800s and 1900s, popular culture believed that America was a melting pot where immigrants arrived, learned the ways of the majority culture – broadly Northern European, Protestant, and English-speaking – and assimilated into the America way of life. Each wave of immigration set off fear in those that were already here that more people would bring more problems. The social and economic benefits of our diversity however, are easily illustrated throughout the country – from small towns to big cities. As of 2015, there were more than 180,000 refugee-owned businesses across the US, with 13% of refugees contributing to our economy through entrepreneurship (compared to just 9% of US-born entrepreneurs).
Yet, it is apparent that cultural diversity and cultural inclusivity don’t necessarily go hand-in- hand. Over the past thirty years, Rhino’s diversity has exposed employees to others’ traditional cuisines, life experiences, and how to greet or joke with each other in other languages. This happened organically, supported by a company culture that believes everyone belongs. We also wanted to support this structurally, to learn more about people’s experiences, to think more deeply about inclusivity, and to take more action.
In November 2018, we had our first company-wide paid day off to honor the Hindu holiday of Diwali, which is celebrated by many of our Nepalese and Bhutanese employees. In this manner, we recognize what is relevant to a significant segment of our workforce, not just what is celebrated by the majority. In the week leading up to Diwali, Rhino made efforts to share the history and meaning of the holiday with all our employees. The feedback from employees was positive and heart-felt.