Advancing Leadership Diversity: What Gets in the Way?

Guest blog by Jim Gauss and Howard Jessamy

Second in a series of findings from Witt/Kieffer’s 2011 national survey report Building the Business case. Healthcare Diversity Leadership.

If advancing leadership diversity is so crucial to organizational success in the face of change this year, what’s stopping us?

Respondents to Witt/Kieffer’s 2011 national survey say that healthcare organizations still struggle to close the ethnic/racial leadership gap.  In fact, 80 percent of African American respondents feel that organizations have been ineffective at closing the gap. “Our biggest challenge is recruiting physicians and executive talent at the minority level,” explains a Caucasian CEO from the Midwest.

But why?

  1. There’s a lack of diversity talent. While over half of respondents agree the pool of diverse candidates for healthcare leadership candidates has grown over the last five years, only 38 percent feel the pool has improved in their own organizations. One Hispanic COO from the West Coast complains, “There is no awareness or commitment to developing minority candidates. I think my company tries to find a ‘prototype’ that just doesn’t exist in the minority world.”
  2. Equal consideration is not so equal. Less than one in ten of African American respondents and one in five Hispanic respondents agree organizations give equal consideration to minority candidates for leadership positions. And yet, 70 percent of Caucasians feel they do. Younger respondents are optimistic though. “You should be overt about what your ethnicity brings to the table,” says one candidate. “I’m Asian and your patient population is Asian. I can help you relate to them.”
  3. Diversity recruiting isn’t always productive. In some cases, the organization’s formalized diversity structures just aren’t effective. They aren’t well funded or don’t deliver in recruiting or retaining diverse candidates. “We just use the ‘hope’ method,” notes one executive. “I’d like to see HR recruiters target search firms that deal with minorities, use social media, and participate in minority job fairs.”

The top barriers to success depend upon whom you ask.  Caucasian executives say the biggest problem is lack of access to diverse candidates, while minority respondents say it’s a lack of commitment by the board and top management. Likewise, Caucasians point to a lack of diverse candidates, while minorities say it’s a lack of serious consideration of diverse candidates.

The good news: Everyone agrees on the #1 best practice for closing the gap. Watch next week for Advancing Leadership Diversity: The #1 Best Practice.

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