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Diversifying the C-suite, senior leadership and workforce is a journey for the nation — and for health care CEOs it is also becoming an important aspect in the pursuit of organizational excellence.

The work starts at the top, of course, but not every member of a CEOs leadership team will understand the reasons to undertake it. Complicating matters, discussions about racism, poverty, sexism, inequity and all disparities are sensitive in nature and difficult to begin.

CEOs can lead work to advance equity in the leadership team by employing the following:

    • Using data to illustrate the problem’s scope    
    • Building a safe neutral space to discuss uncomfortable topics
    • Establishing executive and enterprise-wide accountability
    • Paying attention to actions as opposed to identities
    • Recognizing when an individual is not suited to the mission

Using data to illustrate the problem’s scope
As difficult as discussions around diversity and inclusion and other sensitive topics can often be, leveraging data serves as an important tool in creating an informed foundation to more effectively understand and ultimately address the problem.

“It starts with just looking at the data and then it becomes about how we interpret this and how willing we are to move forward,” said Carrie Byington, MD, Executive Vice President, University of California Health. “Using data is really an important step, especially for leaders accustomed to making data driven decisions.”

As an example, Sachin Jain, MD, President & CEO, SCAN Group and Health Plan, recounted an experience with a leader on the team who felt that increasing the organizational focus on diversity and inclusion was actually being unfair because it was already in progress.

“That person just hadn’t seen the data,” Jain said. “The reality was our data showed a gap between the population demographics of Medicare eligibles in our service areas and our membership, and once they saw that they got on board pretty quickly.”

That’s not to suggest illustrating realities about disparities will convert every C-suite executive or member of the leadership team. Leveraging data, however, also brings the benefits of not inadvertently alienating people with good intentions and enabling CEOs to identify individuals unlikely to change their thinking relative to diversity.  

Tom Sullivan

Tom Sullivan brings more than two decades in editing and journalism experience to Health Evolution. Sullivan most recently served as Editor-in-Chief at HIMSS, leading Healthcare IT News, Health Finance, MobiHealthNews. Prior to HIMSS Media, Sullivan was News Editor of IDG’s InfoWorld, directing a dozen reporters’ coverage for the weekly print publication and daily website.