I recently read an alarming and, quite frankly, shocking New York Times Article entitled “Fewer Women Run Big Companies Than Men Named John,” which indicates that fewer S&P 1500 firms have female CEOs than male CEOs named “John”. And when considering racial and ethnic diversity, the problem becomes even more acute. A 2013 survey by the American Hospital Association’s Institute for Diversity in Health Management and the Health Research & Educational Trust showed that minorities comprised just 12% of hospital executive leadership positions. When one stops and lets that sync in, it becomes painfully aware that the lack of diversity is more profound than ever. Considering the U.S. population is comprised of approximately half women and 40% minorities, it’s easy to see why this is a huge problem, especially given the demographic shifts that are projected to occur over the next two decades.
Why is this a problem? Diversity in the workplace helps to spark creativity and innovation. A diverse set of experiences and opinions can offer a variety of solutions to business challenges. All industries, especially such a human-centered sector such as healthcare, need diversity to bring forth new ideas that lead to innovation, new treatments, and cutting-edge medicines. A study conducted by the Harvard Business School interviewed 24 CEOs from around the globe who positively advance diversity in their organizations and corporate divisions. All 24 CEOs forcefully affirmed the benefits of diversity and defined it as “a source of creativity and innovation.”
“When employees with different backgrounds and experiences collaborate with one another, they can accomplish more than they would as individuals.”
The CEOs praised the remarkable benefits of promoting employee diversity, but they were also disappointed with the shortage of progress on diversity in the C-suite. According to a recent report, there are only a handful of African-American CEOs at the nation’s 500 largest companies. A Forbes report from 2016 indicated that only 4.2% of the Fortune 500 firms are led by female CEOs, and 28% have just one female director. Even worse, the inequality at the C-suite level has also promoted intolerance of leaders with diverse backgrounds. Andrea Jun, the CEO of the personal care products firm Avon, shared her experience that she is usually the only woman or Asian sitting around a table of senior executives, and people often assume she could not be the boss. Another similar example is shared by Ajay Banga, the CEO of MasterCard,
“My passion for diversity comes from the fact that I myself am diverse. There have been a hundred times when I have felt different from other people in the room or in the business. I have a turban and a full beard, and I run a global company—that’s not common.”
Executive leaders with diverse backgrounds may even be treated unfairly, and their contributions can often be underappreciated. In the study, Harvard Business School also distinguished leadership styles between men and women. The conclusions of the study described women as less political, more collaborative, better listeners, more relationship-oriented and more empathetic and reasonable. George Halvorson, the former CEO of the Kaiser Permanente, affirmed that when dealing with complex projects involving multiple layers, a collaborative leader is necessary, and his experience shows that more often than not the leader turns out to be a woman. Executive leaders with diverse backgrounds can fulfill the business demands with innovation and creativity.
“In the end, it is important to embrace executive leaders with diverse backgrounds. They are the talents who can create a culture based on innovation and cooperation, and also have the courage to bring forth new ideas and break the routine.”
To further explore the influence of diverse leadership in healthcare, please contact The Kaleidoscope Group at 312-274-9000 or www.kgdiversity.com.
Joseph Gaspero is a Consultant with the Kaleidoscope Group. He is a diversity and inclusion expert with a specific focus on the healthcare industry. Joseph has extensive knowledge and expertise in areas such as diverse patient groups, diversity in healthcare organizations, employee and business resource groups, diversity in clinical trials, and shifting U.S. demographics. He also has extensive knowledge and expertise on the intersection of diversity and inclusion with financial performance and other key organizational metrics. Joseph is also the CEO and Co-Founder of the Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI), an independent, non-profit research and educational institute dedicated to making healthcare more equitable for all patients. CHI’s mission is to bring together experts and ideas from all over the world to improve healthcare for everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, race, ethnicity, or other social determinants. Joseph’s leadership stems from a wide array of experiences, including founding and operating several non-profit and for-profit organizations, serving in the U.S. Air Force in support of 2 foreign wars. His skills include strategy, management, entrepreneurship, healthcare, clinical trials, diversity & inclusion, life sciences, research, marketing, and finance. Joseph has lived in six countries, traveled to over 30 more, and speaks three languages, which help him view diversity and inclusion through a global lens.
Connolly, Katherine, and Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams. “Great Leaders Who Make the Mix Work.” Harvard Business Review. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 May 2017.
- Vinjamuri, David. “Diversity in Advertising Is Good Marketing.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 Mar. 2017. Web. 01 June 2017.
- Wallace, Gregory. “Only 5 Black CEOs at 500 Biggest Companies.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 01 June 2017.
- Zarya, Valentina. “Female Fortune 500 CEOs Are Poised to Break This Record in 2017.” Female Fortune 500 CEOs Set to Break Records in 2017. Fortune, 22 Dec. 2016. Web. 01 June 2017.