Having a plan and sticking to it can help increase diversity in the workforce.
Women occupy more executive leadership roles in the medtech industry compared to 20 years ago, but there’s still a lot of work to do in moving from unconscious bias toward a more diverse and inclusive work culture.
Women account for 50.8% of the U.S. population and, according to the Center for American Progress, for 47% of the country’s labor force and 52% of all professional-level jobs. But just 20% of executives, senior officers and managers in U.S. high-tech industries are women, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And the numbers are worse when it comes to minorities: high-tech leadership in the U.S. is 83.3% white, 10.6% Asian-American, 3.1% Latinx and 1.9% black.
“For many years, perhaps even decades, we’ve been talking about unconscious bias and at some point, we have to admit to ourselves that it’s no longer unconscious,” Ann Anaya, 3M’s chief diversity officer, said during a diversity and inclusion panel at DeviceTalks Minnesota last June.
“Whether it’s for gender, ethnicity, race, disability or other, the playing field has to be leveled,” Anaya said.
So how do we keep moving toward a more diverse and inclusive work culture?
Affirmative action laws in the U.S. for institutions and organizations that work with the government are designed to improve opportunities for groups that have historically been excluded, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“Any company that does business with the government has a mandate to have affirmative action plans,” Anaya said. “We all know that those affirmative action plans, although they can be audited, have not made a difference in diversifying the workforce. So, the question is, what else [can we do]? The idea of diversity and inclusion, for me at least, is that first you have to have public goals, then you have to measure progress toward those goals, then you have to have accountability for progress.”
Companies such as 3M and Medtronic take engagement into account when diversifying their workforces. For example, inclusion at 3M is measured on an inclusion index through an 11-question standard opinion survey. Each company and business at 3M is held accountable for the inclusion index and designated employees (“inclusion champions”) who implement, enforce, encourage and engage employees. Each inclusion champion at the company helps drive the diversity index and inclusion index.
Medtronic isn’t much different when it comes to measuring diversity and inclusion. It also uses a formal structure with goals and objectives for the VP-and-above population that involve more than just representation. The company uses an engagement survey that asks questions such as, “What is world class?” “Where should the company be?” and “Where are the company’s opportunities focused?”
“We have aspirational goals that we established. If we want to talk about just metrics for a minute, it’s very difficult to get credibility in these spaces without actually measuring what you’re doing,” explained Sophia Khan, senior director of global inclusion and diversity at Medtronic. “Talking about inclusion is critical, but representation matters.”
Representation and accountability are pivotal for garnering a work culture that is inclusive to more than just women, but also includes military veterans, LGBTQA+, people with disabilities, different ethnicities, races and more. There are lots of dimensions to diversity, so bringing more diversity of thought into the room to talk about what companies need to offer to customers is important for driving business.
“To be really frank and open about that, representation matters for many reasons. I would say because we do still have underrepresented populations, whether it’s in the U.S. or across the world. We can talk about the most obvious, gender. We have an aspiration goal at Medtronic to have 40% or more managers and above global representation for women, and we’re very close to it,” said Khan. “But it’s not about just being close to it. It’s about everything that fuels the engine to build talent.”
Although companies are implementing diversity programs for more inclusive cultures, experience still matters when promoting diversity in executive roles.
“A lot of people like to talk about [diversity of thought] because then they don’t have to talk about representation. When we talk about inclusion, at Medtronic we really look at experience. Not everybody is going to have industry experience coming in, or specifically medical device [experience]. Our business model at Medtronic is changing,” Khan said.
Town hall forums help companies talk about what initiatives are being implemented to bring in more diversity, she added. They’re also a good opportunity for companies to talk about how their initiatives are working and to start a conversation about what else needs to be done.
“With our CEO, it’s fascinating. We talk about engagement, we talk about representation. It’s almost like he is processing live on stage. Omar Ishrak will say, ‘You know what, diversity of thought, but let me tell you why it’s important.’ It’s not just important to have people who are different in the room, but what do you do with that? What happens when you leave the room? How does that challenge our thinking and impact our patients?” she said.
Setting goals and holding people accountable are some of the most common ways to promote diversity and inclusion in the industry. But even with defined goals, there’s always something to improve.
“Best practices, I think, are putting equal weight for both diversity and inclusion, setting a goal and holding people accountable for progress towards that goal through data and metrics. What could we do better?” Anaya said. “I think we could do better with transparency. I also think we could do better with convincing those that are not yet convinced about the value of diversity and inclusion. I think many times we preach to the choir, and we have to find ways to reach more people.”