Recent News

Recent News

Increasing Black Representation in Leadership: A Key Priority for VHA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team

January 30, 2024

When collecting data for VHA Home HealthCare (VHA)’s second Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Survey in 2022, the organization looked specifically at the experiences of Black, African or Caribbean, East Asian and South East Asian staff and service providers. The findings, highlighted in VHA’s DEI Report published early last year, indicate that Black, African or Caribbean employees were less likely to report feelings of inclusion within the organization compared to other participants.

“Although VHA is a proudly diverse organization, we recognize that the experiences of inclusion are not the same for all of our staff and service providers and that there is work to be done,” said Adam Benn, Director of DEI at VHA. “There were several priorities identified as a result of this survey, including our commitment to retaining, developing and promoting Black employees into leadership positions.”

In Canada, there is longstanding evidence of health inequities for racialized groups and this disproportionately affects Black communities. Inequities stem from decades of racism, microaggressions and overt forms of discrimination, which leads to a lack of trust in the system and decreased health outcomes.

“Increasing racial diversity and inclusion in leadership roles in healthcare organizations helps staff, care providers and clients/patients see themselves reflected in the health system and is an important step to address systemic racism,” Adam said.

“This encourages a culture of anti-racism within our organization, begins to address these health equity challenges and supports and values our diverse workforce—which is one of our greatest strengths,” Adam added.

Supporting Leaders: Momentum to Change 

In 2023, VHA’s DEI team launched several initiatives to meet the goal of retaining, developing and promoting Black employees into positions of leadership. This included a Pulse Check survey directed to Black managers and supervisors to assess and analyze the strategies in place to support Black leaders. Follow-up events, Change in Action: A Leadership Workshop and the Black Leaders Lunch, were a chance to dig deeper into these issues and share experiences, skills and knowledge.

“These events showed just how valuable this type of engagement can be and that there’s a real desire for mentorship opportunities within the Black community at VHA. We asked how might we keep people in the organization, prevent turnover, and support and encourage the internal promotion process. If someone doesn’t have the skills required to apply for a management position, how can we help them gain those skills?” Adam said.

One of the biggest outcomes from these events was the recommendation to facilitate a town hall in order to engage the broader Black community beyond managers and supervisors. VHA’s first ever Black Town Hall was held in November and presented an opportunity for Black, African and Caribbean staff and service providers to gather, examine the Black experience, discuss critical issues related to equity and inclusion, and get a sense of what strategies might support Black retention and engagement.

“Creating a safe space for dialogue, reflection and connection was a significant milestone for our DEI efforts,” Adam said.

“This February for Black History Month, we are hosting events at several VHA offices to celebrate the impactful contribution of Black, African and Caribbean individuals throughout history and within our organization—while also providing a further opportunity for engagement, sharing and connection,” he said.

For Courtney Bean, VHA’s Vice President of Strategic Solutions and Partnerships, “these efforts show VHA’s authentic commitment to acknowledge and address the distinct issues we face as Black staff and service providers working within the office or while delivering care.”

“This support will also help to ensure that management and supervisors at all levels more accurately reflect the diverse communities that we serve,” Courtney added.

VHA will publish the results of its most recent DEI survey in late February, and efforts to identify and encourage Black leaders across the organization will continue to be a priority in the year ahead.