by Barbara Casey, CRO
A study came out a while back showing that those group brainstorming sessions in front of the whiteboard weren’t always the best way to encourage new ideas. According to the study, peer pressure, long a relic of high school classrooms, was still abundant in the professional ranks. People simply feared speaking up so, as so many things, the loudest voice in the room typically won the day.
Imagine being the only woman in the room. The only Black person, Hispanic person…the only different person in a room full of the same.
While that issue is getting better there are still miles to go.
Healthcare is a unique industry on several levels. Gender-wise, women make up 70 percent of the global healthcare workforce but only 25 percent of the senior leadership roles, according to the World Economic Forum. Factoring in women of color? Sit down before going further. In 2019, McKinsey reported that only 4 percent of all C-suite roles were filled by women of color. Four percent in an industry that serves everyone – is responsible for the health of an entire nation – a melting pot of race, culture and ethnicity.
What are some of the challenges that women face in the HIT space? We could fill the internet with those answers but one of the crucial ways women tend to fall behind is the “old boys club.” In other words, networking. According to Vivian Riefberg, professor of practice at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, networking, that most essential of soft skills, is hard when senior leadership is already male dominated and in most cases, only practiced with people who look like you.
“Some of the challenges are just like they are across business: people are often more comfortable apprenticing, mentoring, and supporting people who are like themselves,” said Riefberg.
Interestingly, there is a lot of support and chatter about improving the stats mentioned above. According to a recent article in Healthcare Executive, a survey of C-suite executives by Korn Ferry, showed that nearly two-thirds believe advancement opportunities are improving and on the other side of the coin, more than half believe women are still passed over for promotions based on their gender.
“I’ve been noticing more articles and awards programs highlighting the amazing things women are doing in the healthcare space,” said Donna Padilla, managing partner and healthcare practice leader with WittKieffer. “Still, though there is a lot of conversation, I haven’t noticed a tremendous uptick in actual progress based on the data I’ve seen.”
Awareness clearly isn’t the issue. How does healthcare work to solve this problem?
Healthcare has to embrace the problem and then do the footwork to solve it. Unconscious bias is real and while training can certainly help highlight the issue, the issue is how consistently and intentionally fight that bias.
“Ultimately, it is a commitment to consistently evaluate and innovate organizational processes—including the systems that allow for bias in the first place—that will have the most sustained impact on achieving diversity goals,” said Harvard Business Review author, Joelle Emerson.
Addressing bias is not an easy conversation. But, if sunshine is the best disinfectant, healthcare needs to open the blinds to this problem. There will be stumbles along the way, mistakes will be made and you’ll have to fix them but the important part is you’re working on the solution. Essentially, it’s applying the same tactics used for other transformation issues in your organization. You’re identifying the problem. Searching for solutions. Applying those solutions and if you see it’s not working you fail-fast and keep at it.
An intentional effort around diversifying healthcare leadership is a work in progress but as long as the work is being put in, hands are getting dirty and the conversations are happening, the playing field is due to level out as the industry continues to evolve and grow.