Making the Case: Hospitals Need More Diversity in Leadership

Projections by the U.S. Census Bureau show that America’s demographics are changing. Racial and ethnic minorities will become the majority by 2043, but what will the C-suites of the hospitals that serve them look like?

If the present is any indication, the future boards and C-suites might continue to be dominated by older white men. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 80 percent of healthcare workers are women, “yet they hold fewer than 20 percent of key leadership roles,” explains this report on diversity in healthcare leadership.

Initiatives not keeping pace with changing demographics

Facilities management and food services giant Sodexo recently shined the spotlight on racial and ethnic diversity—or lack thereof. In a new whitepaper, titled Healthcare Administrators: The 2043 Business Imperative, the authors point to an Institute for Diversity in Health Management survey that found while the percentage of minority patients jumped from 29% to 31% between 2011 and 2013, during the same time period, overall representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the healthcare C-suite and on hospital boards held steady at just 14%.

Business benefits abound for diversity and inclusion

The business case for diversity and inclusion has become irrefutable. A recent study conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) discovered that increasing the diversity of the leadership teams leads to “more and better innovation and improved financial performance.”

The Sodexo report points to research showing that diversity in leadership can lead to higher patient satisfaction, better patient outcomes and more successful decision-making.

• 62% of healthcare executives believe cultural differences can impact patient satisfaction.

• 54% recognize that recruiting from a more diverse pool of candidates aids organizations in reaching their strategic goals.

• 53% of COOs and 59% of HR executives believe that diverse leadership improves clinical outcomes.

• 65% of CEOs attribute successful decision-making to an in-depth understanding of cultural differences among patients.

Despite the majority of executives who believe these things about diversity in healthcare leadership, the NAACP finds that fewer than half of hospitals today allocate budgetary funds for diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Ideas for implementing a diversity and inclusion program

If your organization does not appropriately address diversity and inclusion, then making measurable progress will be hard to achieve. In a recent HealthTechS3 webinar, Peter Goodspeed, MBA, vice president of executive recruiting, and Carroll Bagwell, PHR, human resources director, discussed diversity as a key component to executive recruiting and offered the following tips:

Expand your definition of diversity: There are two types of diversity—inherent and acquired. Inherent diversity includes characteristics like race, ethnicity, gender and age, while acquired diversity covers education, experience, values, skills and knowledge. It’s important for leadership roles to be filled by people who fulfill a variety of these diverse characteristics.

Compile data: Any successful diversity and inclusion initiative begins with data. Capture data on employee demographics to better understand the diversity of its employees. Once data is collected, underrepresented areas can be identified.

Set your goals: Identify and set specific goals related to diversity and inclusion based on the company’s strategic objectives. Goals can be specific to your organization’s workforce and/or expand to the community served.

Review current policies and practices for diversity challenges: Are employee referral programs drumming up too many “like me” job applicants? Do your hiring managers reflect the diversity of the community? Does your company culture emphasize “majority” cultures and traditions?

Get buy-in: As with any hospital initiative, buy-in from senior management is imperative. Leaders must understand the business case for the diversity and inclusion initiatives and how they can influence the company’s strategic goals. For more information on setting up a successful diversity and inclusion initiative, watch the HealthTechS3 webinar, Diversity as a Key Component to Executive Recruitment. Also, mark your calendar for Nov. 15, when Goodspeed will be hosting a new webinar taking a deeper look at diversity and inclusion at the hospital senior leadership team level.