When I started my healthcare career as a critical-care nurse decades ago, I was often one of a few men at the bedside. Back then, frontline positions—the nursing profession in particular—were overwhelmingly dominated by women, but strikingly, the upper echelon of hospital management never seemed to reflect that diversity.
With dismay, I often witnessed highly qualified female colleagues who were passed over for promotions, or I watched as women failed to apply for senior executive positions, even though they were uniquely qualified.
In the decades since, this lack of inclusion at the top has stubbornly persisted in our industry, and we must become more intentional if we are to foster a greater diversity in opinion that truly drives better decision-making.
We are in the business of caring for others. In this era of consumer-centric care, it's critically important to ensure that our clinicians, executives and even members of our governing boards, accurately represent and reflect the communities we serve. Illness is blind to race, gender and ethnic origins. However, our response to illness requires diverse perspectives.
Here in Houston, we are proud of our community's distinction as one of the most diverse metropolitan cities in the country. Our patients come from all walks of life, representing a rich cornucopia of languages, races, ethnicities, religions and backgrounds—and so do our employees and affiliated physicians.
Four years ago, Memorial Hermann founded Women Leaders of Memorial Hermann, a group dedicated to inspiring, engaging and encouraging women within the organization to grow their leadership roles. The group has since grown to 630 members across our system, and has become a training ground for our next generation of leaders and a key part of our succession planning. Women Leaders has helped cultivate a systemwide culture of female empowerment by equipping women (and a few men, too) with resources, strategies and insights to help them achieve their personal and professional best. This is no accident; it was intentional.
The group has been the genesis for many remarkable success stories. Vivien Bond transitioned from her role in strategic planning to become chief operating officer of our Katy Hospital. Jessica Rivas started her career with us as chief nursing officer and has now become another one of our COOs. Malisha Patel worked her way up through the ranks to become CEO of two of our acute-care hospitals that collectively have nearly 700 beds.
These anecdotes are more than just inspiring tales of women receiving well-deserved promotions; these leaders embody how our organization values diversity and inclusion as an integral part of our business strategy.
Today, of the nine system executives (including me), six are female and three are male. Of the top 22 senior leaders at Memorial Hermann, 11 are female and 11 are male, and our board of directors is led by the first female in Memorial Hermann's history.
There are clear benefits to promoting gender equity in our C-suite and encouraging stronger representation from groups that have long been underrepresented in executive roles. Not only do our patients benefit from having advocates who represent the full spectrum of our community, it also makes good business sense. Our financial performance has improved significantly over the past two years.
Having a diversity of opinions and perspectives among our top leadership ranks has led to deeper, more nuanced discussions, more thoughtful and intentional strategies, and more nimble decision-making. That, in turn, has helped us achieve better operational performance.
To be certain, there is still work to be done to become more inclusive and diverse, but I'm encouraged by the progress that we have made, both as an organization and as an industry. As women and other underrepresented groups continue to gain seats at the table, we all stand to benefit.