Diversity is a party, inclusion is a dance — 4 experts on minority representation in healthcare

As the U.S. becomes increasingly diverse, healthcare organizations must evolve to best serve the needs of their patients and the next generation of leadership.

At Becker's Hospital Review 7th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable in Chicago, Nov. 12-14, experts discussed how healthcare leaders can rise to the challenge. Panelists included:

  • J. Bryan Bennett, executive director of San Diego-based Healthcare Center of Excellence
  • Ava Lias-Booker, JD, partner and head of litigation at McGuireWoods
  • Carlton Abner, RN, DNP, associate vice president at B.E. Smith
  • Soyini Coke, principal of Annona Enterprises and host of "CEO Exclusive Radio"

Here are three takeaways from the discussion:

1. Minorities aren't proportionately represented.

According to Ms. Coke, 20 percent of healthcare CEOs are female, and 18 percent are non-white. Only three hospital CEOs are black women and only two are black men.

"This is the state of diversity and inclusion today," she said. "It's distorted — it's not representative of the population."

Ms. Lias-Booker said there's also a lack of representation in law. "As a legal profession, we've struggled across the board with diversity. There's a renewed urgency and focus — we're seeing the demographics of the nation change, and change very quickly, and we need to adapt. Diverse teams create better products and services, and as law firms, we are trying to bring that to bear in the services we provide."

2. There's a distinction between diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Abner said patients will be more comfortable in healthcare facilities if they see employees who look like them, and pointed out the importance of inclusion.,"Diversity is more of a compliance mindset," he said."Inclusion is what you put into practice. Diversity is being asked to party. Inclusion is being asked to dance."

Mr. Bennett elaborated by defining inclusion not just in terms of hiring diverse candidates, but also developing and promoting them.

3. Inclusion requires an organizational shift.

"The thing that separates a well-run organization from average or poorly run organizations is leadership, and it starts at the top," said Mr. Bennett. "As a leader, you have to model inclusive behavior for the people below you, you have to respect and listen to what they have to say."

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