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Push for diverse hospital leadership begins at the top – Antoinette Hardy-Waller

Increasing diversity and inclusion on leadership teams and governing boards is more of a focus at healthcare organizations as the U.S. population shifts and companies look for new perspectives. While some progress has been made in this area, there is still room for improvement.

The share of black female board members at Fortune 500 companies increased 26.2 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to a study published by the Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte. But black women only represent 2.6 percent of total Fortune 500 board seats.

That’s why The Leverage Network, a Chicago-based organization, is dedicated to promoting the advancement of black executives in governance roles and increasing the representation of women and black executives in board positions in healthcare, including providers, pharma, payers, biotech and medical device manufacturers. These efforts include a six-month fellowship program — developed with sponsoring partners EY Center for Board Matters and Heidrick & Struggles — for black executives seeking board opportunities in healthcare.

The first fellowship program graduates were 15 black executives, 25 percent of whom were placed in a board opportunity. Eleven black executives made up last year’s second class of fellowship graduates, and there are 14 black executives in this year’s fellowship class.

“It’s not just about increasing the number of seats held by minorities, but ultimately the impact having a diverse board can have on health disparities and inequities in communities of color served by those organizations,” Antoinette Hardy-Waller, Leverage Network’s president and CEO, said in a recent interview with Becker’s.

“We know when there is a diverse perspective, an understanding and appreciation for the differences in culture, better decisions can be made about how we treat, care for and approach different populations,” Ms. Hardy-Waller said.

According to Ms. Hardy-Waller, increasing the diversity of hospital leadership teams and governing boards begins with the top leader at the organization, who must be deliberate and intentional.

“The push for diversity has to start at the top, with the CEO, who has to get involved and be visible in the process. He/she has to establish a culture of accountability within the organization for diversity that is counted and measured,” she said.

“It cannot be just an item on a ‘to do’ list, it has to be deliberate and intentional. Organizations where we’ve seen the greatest improvements are those organizations whose leadership has been very intentional about diversity,” she said.

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Antoinette Hardy-Waller

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