Words VS Actions: How To Make Promoting Women in Healthcare's Supply Chain a Priority
The day this blog is published is International Women's Day. It's actually okay if you didn't know that. It's not okay if you do nothing now that you do know.
What Not To Do
Here's the classic trap for businesses: branding themselves as supporting something that their actions just obviously don't. You see this in small ways, like a corporate announcement about Pride Month that results in a local store's sad display of rainbow flags on a single shelf. You see this in systemic ways, like businesses tweeting #IWD2022 and getting called out by a Twitter bot that reveals their gender pay disparity. Like this healthcare organization from across the pond.
That would be like publishing a series of articles on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) that was overwhelmingly written by contributors who were white, men, or both.
If you're reaching for the keyboard to brag - internally or externally - on the awesome women who work at your organization, ask yourself how it might end up looking if it turns out that you're not exactly valuing the women who work with you the way you should (remember - tokenizing someone makes it so you don't have to treat them as human beings). And while you're thinking about that, ask yourself why you aren't motivated to brag on the awesome women who work at your organization all the time.
Unless, of course, you're part of an organization that treats all its employees perfectly equitably. But you'd be in the minority, especially in the industries that we serve.
Healthcare Is Not Equal (And Neither Is Supply Chain)
There's no point pretending that women and men are treated equally in the business of healthcare. It's been proved false time after time.
The pay gap is a popular but thorny issue to navigate, partially because the popular perception isn't quite reality. You could argue that women make 25% less than men, or you could say that they earn 2% less, and either way, you could be right.
The differing statistics perfectly highlight two different issues: that women earn a little less individually than men when given the same positions, and that as a group, women earn significantly less than men because they're given less opportunity to be promoted to positions with more authority and, therefore, more money.
You can see this pretty handily in healthcare salaries. This round-up of healthcare salaries is five years old, so its specifics have changed a little, but its result is the same today. Across every department in a healthcare provider, men make more than women do.
Physician pay data is what publications tend to focus on, which is a shame, because - as we know as well as you do - healthcare providers are much more than their clinicians. And the supply chain isn't as diverse as it should be, either. Women aren't inherently any worse at setting up a logistics network than men. Nor are they less interested in the types of tasks that comprise efficient inventory management. So the difference must be in opportunity. Women can't take a high-paying job if they're never offered the job or invited to apply in the first place.
Of course, salaries aren't the only way that equality shows itself. As mentioned, lack of opportunity and visibility are ways that women - and every other historically marginalized group - aren't equal.
What To Do About It
1. Create a DEI Group
A group focused specifically on diversity efforts should be an essential part of every organization. And the best part about it is that you don't have to hire a bunch of outside help to set one up. Give the responsibility to the current employees who are most passionate about advocating for voices that have traditionally not been heard as often or taken as seriously.
But there's a crucial part of this effort that a lot of organizations get wrong: don't make this new responsibility an additional burden. None of the necessary work that the DEI group does can take place after-hours, for example. If they need to meet, they need to meet during work, and the work that they would ordinarily do during that time should be taken up by other people. If they want to hold fun community-building events, those can be approached more like the traditional after-work happy hour or extended lunch.
Any marginalizing or deprioritizing of their suggestions and efforts are expressions that you - and your organization - do not value what these people are trying to do. It's reinforcing that their experiences (the pieces of evidence they've compiled over a lifetime's worth of research) are less important than yours.
2. Recognize Achievement
Start looking for ways that you can celebrate the people who work with and for you. Do you know a woman in the supply chain who deserves an award? Nominate her for this one.
It took about eighteen seconds of googling and clicking to find the above award, so if you want to recognize the achievement of someone in your finance department, OR management, or any other area, you can probably find an award that would be a good fit for them. And, yes, this can seem disingenuous, which we've already criticized, but only if what you're celebrating doesn't align with your material values.
If someone is shortlisted for or wins an award, offer them a bonus. If they're part of an industry-improving presentation at a conference or in a publication, give them more freedom at work to research and implement new ideas. And offer them a bonus.
(We don't have many systems built into the business world to reward good behavior that aren't monetary, so until we develop those, use what's available.)
Wanting to improve the circumstances of your coworkers at all is honestly great. It shows that you value their humanity, and it makes them want to work with and for you. Happier workers are always going to create a more successful company.
Please don't be discouraged that you're not doing enough. That's not the point of this blog or this movement. Because first of all: that's a good way to talk yourself out of doing anything at all, which doesn't help anybody. And second of all: we could all always be doing more.
"Oh, you're hiring more women? Well, why aren't you fundraising for a shelter?" "Oh, you're fundraising for a shelter? Well, why aren't you lobbying your local government?" "Oh, you're lobbying your local government? Why aren't you running for national office?" And so on. And so forth.
Who does thinking this way help?
You already want to care. You're on the right track. Go talk to the people who don't care yet so you can get them in line with you. If the only thing that can motivate them is the bottom line, after you've taken a moment to pity their fundamental loneliness, remind them of the facts: higher worker satisfaction leads to more productive workers.
Improving the situation of women in healthcare and the supply chain helps everybody. In fact, substitute women with any historically marginalized group for pretty much all the situations and pieces of advice in this blog, and you'll see that you could do more to improve the workplace for all types of people. And that helps everybody, too.
(A man wrote this blog, by the way. He'd like to think that's mostly a reflection of not planning ahead enough to ask one of the women at Z5 Inventory or a Z5 partner organization to contribute to the blog this week, but it definitely could be because of biases he's not aware of yet. He's working on it.)