Diversity in healthcare – are we doing enough?

Diversity in the workplace has transgressed in recent years from being a nice-to-have to a must have recruitment policy within all organisations, irrespective of industry or sector. Lord Davies’s recommendations may certainly have been the catalyst for this sea of change, but so too has the gradual realisation of the business benefits to be gained by having a diverse workforce.

As competition between employers across the social and healthcare sectors continues to intensify, being seen as an employer that promotes diversity and inclusivity not only gives you access to a greater pool of potential talent, it also enhances your brand as an employer-of-choice.

However, one of the greatest inequalities is the lack of diverse representation at senior and board level. Take the case of women as an example.

Whilst figures specific to the private healthcare are few and far between, a survey of both independent and public sector conducted by the King’s Fund found that despite two-thirds of the workforce being female (66%), just 35% held a leadership role.

In 2014, 17.3% of NHS staff came from ethnic backgrounds, yet ethnic minorities account for only 8.4% of managers and senior executives. It’s a similar story when it comes to women too.

Despite women accounting for three-out-of-four jobs in the heath sector, just 37% of the most senior roles are held by women; thereby, leaving them seriously underrepresented in leadership.

There have been some huge advances in promoting greater equality ever since the introduction of the Equality Act in 2010. But progress has by and large been slow, as the results of a poll published last week by Investors in People (to coincide with International Women’s Day) support.

It found that 8 in 10 of women (83%) in full time employment believe gender discrimination is still present in the workplace. This begs the question, Why?

Juggling careers with childcare commitments, combating what many see as an inherent old boys network, sexism and inflexible working practices are just some of the reasons that are cited. Yet evidence from other sectors clearly demonstrates the significant gains to be had with a more diverse senior leadership team in place.

Indeed, a recent report conducted by McKinsey & Company found that those organisations with diverse management and senior executives at board level report higher remuneration and greater returns on equity (ROE) that are on average 53% higher than those with low diversity representation at senior level.

In a similar study by Forbes, 48% of respondents stated that diversity is a key driver for innovation within organisations, with 40% of respondents stating their intention to increase their focus on driving greater diversity within their own workplace. This seems to support a study conducted by Harvard Business School.

It found that multicultural networks tend to promote creativity and out-of-the-box solution solving, which come as a result of having a workforce that is better engaged, more productive and delivers a high level of individual performance.

Of course this is not to suggest that this is evidence of a direct correlation between diversity and financial performance, but it does show the organisation as being more open and approachable which can play a huge role when it comes to attracted the talent you really need – especially at senior level.

In other words, if you want to attract the right talent, you need to ensure you have a workforce that reflects the culture, ethical and diverse nature of the talent market as it is today.

Barriers to career progression do still exist for ethnic minorities, women, disabled, sexual orientation and foreign nationals – there is no denying that.

However, management needs to be better culturally prepared and fully committed to executing diversity and inclusion programs that have an impact rather then being a mere token gesture to appease their corporate social responsibility policy, particularly in the face of having to grapple with an ageing population and a declining pipeline of qualified talent.

In pursuing top-team diversity and inclusion and ensuring their place at the top of the HR agenda, social and healthcare organisations can recruit top talent with a wealth of varying experiences that will not only strengthen the leadership pipeline, it will help differentiate them from their competitors.