NAACP: Health systems fail to diversify leadership ranks

While the healthcare industry's supply of well-paying jobs makes it key to improving racial economic equality in the United States, the stubborn lack of diversity in upper management indicates significant room for improvement, according to a new report from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In its "Opportunity and Diversity Report Card" for the healthcare industry, the NAACP graded six healthcare firms using data from 2012 that measure workforce and job advancement as well as contracting and procurement of people of color. Dignity Health, Ascension Health, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), Tenet Healthcare, Hospital Corporation of America and Community Health Systems received letter grades of B, C, C, C-, D- and F, respectively, according to the report.

Among the six health systems, most received high grades in regard to the diversity of their unskilled and semi-skilled workers as well as new hires and promotions. While grades for the diversity of upper-level employees and officials were primarily in the failing range, Dignity Health stood out with an A+ for overall racial diversity of its governing body and an A+ for its inclusion of African-Americans among executive and senior level managers.

In addition to Community Health Systems, whose failing grade resulted from its refusal to participate in the survey, the report card didn't sit well with some of the organizations that voluntarily shared their data with the NAACP. Though CHI received an overall C grade, "we believe we've made more progress in several areas that the grades don't reflect," Patricia Webb, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and chief human resources officer at CHI, told Hospitals & Health Networks Daily, adding that since the data is from 2012, it does not accurately depict its current level of diversity.

Still, increasing diversity in healthcare leadership remains a top priority for the industry, simply because "diverse backgrounds and thought processes at both the board level and C-suite lead to better decision-making," American College of Healthcare Executives Chairman Richard Cordova said at the organization's annual Congress in March. Hospital executive ranks also suffer from a worrisome dearth of female representation, according to a recent report from Rock Health.

For the NAACP's part, it believes promoting diversity in the healthcare workforce is vital to the country's success.

"Economic inequality will persist as long as equal opportunity for people of color in the United States remains an unrealized goal," NAACP President and CEO Cornell Williams Brooks said in an announcement. "The healthcare industry, however, can be a leader in reversing the tide. … The NAACP is excited to partner with the leading healthcare systems in connecting more communities of color to these opportunities and moving our nation towards achieving economic parity."

To learn more:
- check out the report
- here's the announcement
- read the H&HN article