Diversity in the workplace: A principle-driven approach to broadening the talent pool

The business case for diversity, equity, and inclusivity in any organization, in any industry, is compelling; it’s backed by the personal stories we hear in our everyday lives and on the news—and it’s backed by data.

Credible organizations (e.g., Gallup, Scientific American, and MIT) consistently publish studies that show how diversity improves financial outcomes, strengthens team member commitment, and increases creativity.

Yet, despite the strong business case for inclusive workplaces, a lack of diversity continues to be a problem in almost every industry, and healthcare is no exception. Consider, for example, the lack of gender diversity in technology—one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. The facts are discouraging:

• Women hold less than 26 percent of U.S. technology jobs and earn, on average, just 85 percent of what men in those positions earn.

• By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing-related jobs in the U.S. and women will likely only fill 3 percent of those jobs.

• The number of female STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates (in the U.S.) has declined from 37 percent in 1984 to 18 percent in 2016.

• Women are two times more likely than men to quit a high-tech position (41 percent to 17 percent).

The list of reasons for this lack of gender diversity in technology is long and includes challenges on both ends of the pipeline, from limited early exposure to computing skills, to unsupportive work environments. And this women-in-technology segment is just one of many underrepresented groups in healthcare that needs our attention and our commitment to change the status quo.

Healthcare’s workplace diversity challenges, gender-related or otherwise, are significant and complex, but we can start to turn the tide with inclusivity initiatives that are grounded in the same principles that work together to create a healthy culture: respect, humility, transparency, and advocacy.

Respect

Respect is a timeless principle, and perhaps the most important one because it underlies every other principle. Respect communicates that we appreciate, value, and believe we can learn from each of our colleagues.

Humility

Humility helps us be great listeners as we interact with one another. The humility that makes us not just open but eager to learn from each team member and each interaction, including opportunities for improvement, lays the groundwork for an inclusive culture that values diversity.

Transparency

Transparency is inclusivity in practice; it invites every team member to be a part of the solution and, ultimately, holds leadership accountable for solving problems. Transparency is the mechanism through which we exercise humility, admit that we don’t always get it right, and, most importantly, commit to making it right.

Advocacy

A fundamental part of enabling engagement and productivity in team members involves a deep level of trust between team members and management. This trust is strengthened each time a team member senses that their manager is also their advocate committed to enabling their long-term growth and development. Companies can advocate for and empower their team members through a variety of initiatives, including financial assistance to pursue professional development opportunities; flexible work schedules, including generous work-from-home allowances; unlimited vacation time; affinity groups that are open to everyone, can be started by any team member for any underrepresented group (women, LGBTQ, etc.), and provide a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation; and a mentorship program that hopes to address one of the three reasons women in technology are dissatisfied with their career prospects: the lack of inspiring role models.

Broadening the Talent Pool for Technology Careers As organizations increasingly acknowledge the compelling benefits of broadening the talent pool, and start building and empowering their diverse workforces, there are several powerful initiatives that can help:

Connect Team Members with Mentors

Mentorship ties back to one of diversity aims: empowering women in technology. Understanding that 93 percent of women executives attribute much of their success to having an informal career advisory team, mentorship is one of many tools for attracting and retaining a diverse team. Mentorship programs create meaningful opportunities for team members to connect with each other and grow their careers.

Equitable Practices (Hiring, Compensation, etc.) “Many women cite their company's outdated maternity leave policies, lack of flexible work arrangements or salaries that are inadequate to cover the costs of childcare as their main reasons for exiting the tech industry,” according to a Forbes article. Fairness and respect are synonymous. HR-related practices driven by fairness, from ethical hiring practices to flexible hours that encourage work-life integration, add up to create a supportive work environment that minimizes the personal sacrifices team members make when they come to work.

Underrepresented groups struggle to get hired; to tackle this issue, forward-looking companies are implementing unconscious bias training to help hiring managers (and interested team members) understand the role that subconscious bias plays in the hiring process—a training that exposes people’s weaknesses and taps into every team member’s humility and willingness to improve.

Partner with Organizations Committed to Improving Diversity The best cities for women in technology also have conventions and coalitions that support women in technology. Organizations can partner with and learn from these groups that are equally committed to diversity and have the experience to share pragmatic lessons learned. Examples of these organizations include:

• Women Tech Council (WTC), a national organization focused on the “economic impact of women in driving high growth for the technology sector through developing programs that propel the economic pipeline from K-12 to the C-suite.” The WTC offers mentoring, visibility, and networking to more than 10,000 women and men working in technology.

• Kids Code program based on the curriculum from Code.org, a “non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.”

• College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and its Women of CHIME, a “group of CHIME women leaders who share networking and leadership skills with other women CIOs and senior healthcare IT executives.”

Create a Supportive Work Environment

In attempting to eliminate disparities for diverse segments of the talent pool, companies will find that some are easier to influence than others. To help address the early pipeline challenges diverse groups endure to get where they are in their careers, our own team members volunteer with kids through a program called Kids Code to help achieve Code.org’s vision that “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.”

Our advocacy-oriented culture also led to the development of several affinity groups designed to support underrepresented team members (women, LGBTQ, etc.) by giving them time to connect, share challenges and strategies, and offer educational opportunities.

Increasing diversity and inclusivity in healthcare is more than just the right thing to do: it’s an intelligent business decision that improves business outcomes (ROI, innovation, productivity, engagement, team member retention, etc.). As an industry, we must continue to relentlessly commit to making all team members—regardless of gender, race, experience, or perspective—feel respected, supported, and treated as equals across the entirety of their careers.

Dan Burton is Chief Executive Officer; Leslie Hough Falk is Senior Vice President; and Linda Llewelyn is Chief People Officer; all of Health Catalyst (www.healthcatalyst.com), an analytics, decision support and outcomes-improvement company based in Salt Lake City.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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