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How health professionals can respond to Trump’s cultural sensitivity training ban

By Cheryl Fields Tyler

While President Trump’s recent announcement of a ban on cultural sensitivity training applies only to federal agencies, no industry or entity is immune from this pushback on building more diverse, equitable, and inclusive institutions.

For those in healthcare, where diversity and inclusivity is sometimes quite literally a matter of life and death, the administration’s action should be viewed not as a deterrent but a call to re-double efforts to build organizations that combat biases and discrimination, and help all people feel safe, included, and that they belong.

This work is not only critical for creating happier, more cohesive, and motivated teams, but it is at the root of addressing health inequities and improving health outcomes. Kaiser Permanente is one organization leading the charge on this nationally, and recently announced a partnership of more than over $100 million to address systemic racism and break the cycles of stress and trauma that lead to poor health outcomes.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted people of color, is a stark reminder of the urgent need for amplified diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across healthcare institutions. At the same time, a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity worryingly found that over one in four companies have put some or all of their diversity and inclusion initiatives on hold due to the pandemic.

At this moment, with so much focus and attention on diversity and social justice, healthcare leaders have a unique opportunity to make a real impact. First, for their teams––embracing differences and ensuring that all team members are valued for their skills, talents, and contributions, and that they feel seen and included. And second, for their organizations––promoting and advocating for efforts that break down barriers, and build health equity for all.

So what can you, as a healthcare professional, do today?

  • Listen and Learn: Invite employees to share—only if they are comfortable doing so—and listen to how their race, gender, age, sexual preference, and religious background shape their workplace experience. Also, do your homework by seeking out different voices and perspectives about diversity and inclusion.

 

  • Speak up: Fear of saying the wrong thing can be intimidating. But silence is not neutral, and even well-intended silence can have negative consequences. Make sure your team knows you are committed to taking meaningful steps to move yourself and your company toward a more diverse and inclusive future.

 

  • Engage: Start a book club. Establish a regular lunch meeting that also functions as a discussion group. Pay attention to activists and events that align your initiatives and find ways to make them part of the conversation within your organization. Support causes that advocate for diversity and equality, or set aside time or resources to give back to those causes with volunteer days or company events.

 

  • Train: Provide training and make sure that there are processes in place to ascertain that all employees understand your organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—and that valuing and respecting differences is a non-negotiable that makes the organization stronger.

 

  • Support: Encourage employees to establish employee resource groups, online forums, and networking opportunities that build a sense of belonging. Create an internal team focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion to provide input, and support the company’s efforts—and invite senior leaders to participate.

 

About the author:

 Cheryl Fields Tyler is founder and CEO of Blue Beyond. After 20 years in various consulting roles and researching what makes leaders and   organizations effective, Cheryl yearned to see if she could build the kind of business she was advising others to create. Prior to Blue Beyond, she  served as Senior Vice President at ROI Communication, where she led strategic leadership communications and alignment efforts for Pacific Gas &  Electric (PG&E). She is a sought-after advisor and speaker on change, leadership, and culture. Cheryl is a member of Forbes Business Council. She founded Blue Beyond in 2006 with a firm belief that “deep trust, high expectations” cultures – where people feel safe, seen, valued, and heard – are good for business and good for people.