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Beyond The Statement: Taking Action In Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

July 30, 2021 | James Balda


Beyond The Statement Taking Action In Diversity, Equity And InclusionEvery leader at every level has the power to make a difference, whether that means making flexibility possible in an employee’s schedule or mentoring and promoting someone whose leadership potential may have been overlooked. Fueled by the events of 2020, many leaders are stepping up their commitment to change in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The knowledge that leadership has made DEI a priority can help potential employees know their values, safety and dignity will be a priority, too.

In June 2020, I issued a statement from Argentum acknowledging that systemic issues related to racial injustice, discrimination and bias were at the forefront of the national conversation—and that meaningful conversation should extend to senior living, where the share of black employees is approximately double that of the general U.S. workforce, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Since then, we’ve been working on fulfilling our pledge that in our organization and among our members “we will continue working every day to ensure that the senior living industry stands for racial equality and justice and that black residents and staff are treated with dignity and respect.”

OnShift’s healthcare worker survey contributes to our ability to do this by allowing a firsthand view of the employee perspective. Along with careful listening and intentional opportunities for dialogue, data is critical in recognizing each other’s struggles and hopes.

The survey of more than 2,800 healthcare workers echoed the Census Bureau—while the senior living workforce is diverse, nearly 50 percent of caregivers surveyed identify as non-White. However, the majority—69 percent—of those in management and operations roles identified as White or Caucasian.

OnShift CEO Mark Woodka observed that “Many providers I have spoken with are making a concerted effort to provide career paths for frontline staff into management roles, so that organizational leaders will more closely mirror the diversity among their staff. This sends a powerful message of not only of in­clusion but also of career growth potential for all employees.”

Argentum sees this effort growing as well. We highlight providers’ career pathing programs, communicate best practices in career and DEI issues through our events, webinars, discussions and publications, and continue our own programs in leadership development, training and certifications.

Among our own staff, Argentum started the JEDI initiative: Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We read and watch books and films on our own and trade ideas and articles. But most importantly, we talk. We have an open and inclusive environment where we can truly listen to each other. The candid discussions around the documentary 13th, for instance, made it possible for participants to bring forward their pain, their confusion and their need for justice, in a nonjudgmental, dedicated forum.

Through these shared conversations, we have been able to gain a deeper understanding of the racial disparities in this country. As we embark on the JEDI program, concentrating in 2021 on civil rights and racial discrimination, environmental discrimination, LGBTQ rights, and poverty and homelessness, we hope to continue to break down walls and learn more about one another.

Argentum shared this initiative with CEO Action, another move in the direction of increasing DEI. As one of nearly 2,000 CEOs signing on, I pledged to lead Argentum in cultivating a workplace where diverse perspectives and experiences are welcomed and respected and where employees feel encouraged to discuss diversity and inclusion.

A big part of CEO Action is sharing workable ideas. The ceoaction.com website is open to all; you’ll find a description of our JEDI program there along with more than 1,400 other ways to make a difference, wherever you are on your path.

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About James Balda

James Balda is a guest author for OnShift’s blog and the President and CEO of Argentum, the largest national association exclusively dedicated to senior living communities and the seniors and families they serve.

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