Since George Floyd’s murder, corporations and other private entities scrambled to address issues of race and persisting inequity within their ranks. Attention to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (also known as DEI) surged after Floyd’s death.
Practitioners like Joseph B. Hill have been in increasing demand. But it seems some institutions aren’t prepared for what it means to have a staffer of such caliber.
NBC News reported that Hill’s offer to serve as the new chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer for Memorial Hermann Health System was rescinded four days before he was set to begin. An executive-level position, Hill was looking forward to starting his new role. But Hill says that the hospital sent him a “thanks, but no thanks” email without explanation.
Hill told NBC that it was alleged he charged a luxury vehicle as a car rental to the company, that he wanted more relocation funds, and made some uncomfortable with his inquiry about hiring his own team.
Reportedly, the hospital also felt that Hill was “too sensitive on issues of race.” He disputes the allegations and takes issue with the fact that no one in the administration attempted to speak with him. (Read the full article here).
Brushing Hill off as not being the right “fit” when he underwent an extensive hiring process is suspect. And not bothering to verify that the “expensive” rental car was actually Hill’s personal vehicle or recognizing it’s not uncommon for an executive to inquire about having the ability to build the necessary support to do their job suggests Memorial Hermann has a ways to go.
Having a diverse staff is not the same as having an administration that embraces diversity throughout its dealings. A cursory review of the hospital system shows it plays a valuable role in the community, but this doesn’t negate Hill’s experience.
People and companies can have good values and intentions, but the impact of decisions and reluctance to push beyond discomfort demands DEI work be prioritized. Last week the hospital system announced it joined the Healthcare Anchor Network, a collective of over 60 hospitals building inclusive and sustainable local economies.
“We have a huge footprint in these neighborhoods, and we want to see them thrive, and we want to see our vision of healthier communities come to reality,” said Dr. David Callender, President and CEO of Memorial Hermann. “When we say we are creating healthier communities now and for generations to come, we mean that we want to impact social determinants of health, target communities in need, and provide financial and social impact returns. This focus on social and economic factors will be a turning point for ultimately improving community health.”
Part of creating healthier communities should also include reflecting inward on persisting inequities within the hospital’s ranks. One initiative that could have used Hill’s thoughtful analysis is the hospital system’s commitment to hiring community members.