DEI Discussions: Engaging in important conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion
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The Providence Digital Innovation Group is leading DEI Discussions – grassroots conversations to engage the group’s caregivers in hard conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion.
The team brings speakers from within Providence and the community to share their experiences with the goal of improving how the group works together.
By building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive group of caregivers, Providence can better support caring for each other and the diverse community they serve.
For the Providence Digital Innovation Group, being on the leading edge of health care means finding new and original ways to support patients, clinicians, communities and the organization through technology. As consumer-facing technology center within Providence, the unit innovates new strategies, products, digital experiences to support the health of all. The team of strategists, software engineers, marketers is working to forward the vision of “Health for a Better World.”
When the Black Lives Matter movement led to a rise in awareness of racial injustice throughout our society, the Digital Innovation Group was motivated to reckon with the realities of racism within the workplace and how it impacted their team culture and the care it could provide through its work.
Engaging at the ground level
The group chose to engage on those feelings. A smaller team within the 200-person DIG group, led by Adrian McKinsey, search marketing manager, jumped to action, sparking active conversations at a grassroots level and finding ways to implement diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of work.
“We were still all remote, so I thought, if I’m going to be sticking at home, I want to do something meaningful with my time that helps build up the team and address this big challenge in whatever way I can contribute,” said McKinsey, who has now been leading the enrichment committee for nearly two years.
What resulted were “DEI Discussions” – an active program formed within the Digital Innovation Group that empowers caregivers to have hard conversations around race, sexuality, gender and other topics that they experience and that impact how they deliver their work.
Honest conversations, hyperlocal focus
The DEI Discussions have grown into monthly discussion sessions where members of the DIG can discuss difficult subjects.
“These conversations are powerful. What we’ve heard in sessions is that we’re giving people permission to bring their whole self,” said McKinsey. “It’s a positive surprise at how vulnerable people have been.”
The conversations are local to experiences within the DIG, including women in technology, body size in sports and what it’s like to be a gay man from a country where homosexuality is banned. More recently, the topic of quiet quitting has sparked a lot of discussion around how an inclusive culture can better engage caregivers.
“One of my colleagues asked early on what our goals were with these conversations and I said that we want Providence to reflect the communities we serve. That means making sure we consider diversity in everything from our teams of caregivers to our marketing materials. These discussions are putting that idea into practice.”
These discussions have had positive impacts in the workplace. When a Black caregiver recently shared their experience with racism as a Black American, people reached out with notes of support and appreciation for sharing their perspective.
“The purpose is to have people feel included and bring their full selves to the community,” said McKinsey. “People get comfortable and vulnerable if you provide them an avenue to do that. And that means caregivers can walk away with a better understanding of each other and ourselves.”
Most speakers come from within the Digital Innovation Group at Providence, but the team has brought in external speakers including native Alaskans who have created art for a Providence facility. “Their message was ‘we don’t need saviors, we need allies,’” said McKinsey.
Action, impact, result
These conversations have helped to create a culture of acceptance, openness and safety. Thus far, the team has facilitated 40 conversations in two years with 50-70 caregivers attending and engaging in them monthly. However, the impact of the DEI Discussions has gone beyond the conversations themselves.
“The work is very rewarding, but it’s a continuous process,” said McKinsey. “It’s not something we want to be a novelty or a trend, but we want it to get to a point where it’s just who we are as a team.”
The team has also provided recommendations to balance salaries across the DIG, improve DEI practices in hiring processes and grow initiatives to support women and people of color in leadership roles.
Moreover, these conversations have served to engage caregivers that used to work in the office and who are now 100% remote. “These discussions bring culture back and offer connectedness,” said McKinsey.
The team is also excited about the next steps for the group, including building out its celebration committee. This committee is working on some food-centered events like digital potlucks that empower employees to share foods that are important to their cultures as a way of bringing caregivers together.
“Work like this has a huge impact on our caregivers,” said McKinsey. “Culture change is hard, and these DEI Discussions are shifting it. Building an inclusive environment starts with us. If we are fostering this culture within and how we speak with each other, that extends to the health care for all.”
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