The following is part of a series from our recent virtual advisory roundtable event, Women Leaders in Healthcare During a Pandemic, in collaboration with other women thought leaders from such companies as Healthfirst, Highmark Health, Ironwood, and Microsoft. Keep an eye on our blog in the coming weeks for additional learnings from this event.
Healthcare access, particularly for minority groups, is something that many healthcare executives see as a top priority. But intertwined with this issue is the need to turn the focus on the healthcare companies themselves and ask what they are doing to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. There is never one easy solution to such a vast and historic problem, but many executives are busy working to address this problem today.
One area of focus is not only on the hiring pool, but who is actually doing the hiring. “Having a diverse interviewer set and a mix of backgrounds, is vital,” says Maxilla Arias, Analytical Lead at Microsoft. And part of making the interview process more equitable includes unconscious bias training. “Ideas of biases are important—you need to shift what you typically look for and be open to differences in how people show up, what their resumes look like, etc.,” explains Laura Cruz, VP of Marketing at Global Blood Therapeutics. “We need someone at the table who’s experiences mirror those you want to bring in and then actually listen to them.”
Recruitment is one focus, but action is another. Microsoft builds into every employee’s performance a diversity core priority. “How you succeed at this priority is up to you, but you need to set a goal and make strides towards it,” Maxilla adds. At Healthfirst, community and social justice work is a priority. “We’re working with local organizations and communities, helping people get access to care.”
Education is integral in these efforts. In addition to bias training, many companies are creating book clubs to deepen their understanding of issues facing people of color in our country. “I’m fortunate to work for an organization with a priority for diversity for a long time,” says Josie Waters, Sr. Director of Consumer Marketing at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals. They’ve created a company program called, “Ironwood Stands Against Racism,” although Waters admits, “we have made great strides, but our work is not done, as the mosaic of the company does not look the way we want it to yet.”
And this sentiment of unfinished business is shared among so many healthcare executives. When asked what their companies are doing to address diversity and inclusion, their answers are almost universally the same: not enough.