Understanding Diversity in the Workplace: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Understanding Diversity in the Workplace: Just What the Doctor Ordered

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Understanding Diversity in the Workplace: Just What the Doctor Ordered

A recent Equality, Diversity and Inclusion study sponsored by Health Care Project Management Association (HPMA) stressed how addressing significant concerns around the progression of minority employees within the national healthcare systems is “business-critical.” More so, one could argue that understanding diversity is life and death critical.

The lives of people young and old, people of different cultures, people who speak different languages, people who identify as LGBTQ+, or who observe different beliefs, people who live with neurological or physical disabilities, or come from a spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds—and any intersectionality or combination therein—their lives depend on it.

A moment lost in translation or misinterpretation or sheer ignorance could be the difference between the successful or tragic outcome of a medical emergency. It can impact a patient’s ability to understand and comply with care instructions. Or dissuade people from seeking care or divulging concerns altogether.

A report issued by the UK Government Equalities Office, for example, found a notably high level of dissatisfaction with health services among LGBTQ+ people. Authors of the report fault “a lack of knowledge among medical staff about the health needs of LGBTQ+ people, specific concerns with mental and sexual health services and, among transgender people, concerns with the gender identity services provided by the NHS.”

Statistics tell us:

  • Around 1.3 million people were employed by NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups in England at the end of March 2020.
  • White people made up 77.9% of staff
  • Asian people made up 10.7%
  • Black people made up 6.5%
  • People from “Other” made up the balance 2.6%


And while (77%) of the National Health System workforce is made up of women, less than half hold senior roles— a universal problem recently making headlines in Canada. With urgency surrounding the backlog of surgeries postponed for COVID-19 related needs,  CTV reported female surgeons face rampant gender-based referral discrimination, and large pay gaps as a result. Interviewed surgeons agreed this bias and other inequities are not only gender-based, but extend to other groups including practitioners of color, LGBTQ+, and new graduates.

Dr. Samantha Hill, President of the Ontario Medical Association noted how, “when you have a diverse workforce, patients do better. You ask different questions and research, you approach things with a different lens … so the absence of any given group, whether it’s women, or a specific racialized community, or LGBTQ+, means that we are weakening our capacity to provide care for patients.”

Moreover, as a report by McKinsey found, gender-diverse companies (healthcare institutions and services included) outperform peers by 15% whilst ethnically diverse executive teams are 35% more likely to do the same.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure

What is your organization’s demographic makeup?

How do employees feel about diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplace?

Simple, easily accessible diversity, equity, and inclusion surveys are a springboard to better understanding the sentiment of your employees and, achieving the kind of diverse thinking required to take your healthcare organization to the next level.

It’s a matter of understanding the differences between Black, Asian, Chinese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other ethnic or visible minority cultural nuances. Understanding the difference between diversity (inherent characteristics such as race, age, gender, sexual orientation and disability), equity (if equity-seeking groups have equitable opportunities to advance and grow), and inclusion (how each employee experiences their day-to-day work world—and taking actions that place a premium on the value of every person and what they have to offer).


By regularly looking at progress in aggregate and by operational divisions, by leaders, activities and teams—if comparisons suggest something’s amiss, management can respond. A potential recruiting and hiring bias, for instance, may become apparent across or in pockets of your organization. Data trends might flag concerning promotion and retention numbers in one or more marginalized groups.

Surveys let you see parts of the organization where employee sentiment is very low or noticeably high and dig deeper to understand troubled and exemplary areas of the organization. Collecting, analyzing and reporting on progress is how barriers are removed and an authentic and measurable commitment to diversity and belonging triumphs 

This article was developed for and featured in the May 2021 Edition of the Healthcare People Management Association (HPMA) monthly newsletter. The HPMA is a UK-based, Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) supporting and developing HR staff to improve the people management contribution in healthcare and ultimately improve patient care. WorkTango is a proud member of the HPMA.