Interview with Dr. Sheila Robinson
July 12, 2018 | Blog Post
Dr. Sheila Robinson is the founder and publisher of Diversity Woman Magazine, a professional business magazine for women leaders, executives and entrepreneurs of all races, cultures, and backgrounds. Of the recognitions she has received, Dr. Robinson has been featured on the cover of Publishing Executive Magazine and named one of the 50 Top Women in Magazine Publishing for her contributions to the industry. Dr. Robinson has played a significant role in providing leaders and organizations with a platform to share best practices and continue the inclusion conversation.
Dr. Robinson spoke with the Center for Healthcare Innovation about how to keep the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) conversations moving, and shared resources for young women.
CHI: What unique obstacles do women still face in the workplace? What are the solutions?
Dr. Robinson: D&I initiatives have evolved over time, from an initial focus on compliance to today’s business strategy for the bottom line. Historically, diversity efforts narrowly focused on increasing women and minority representation. D&I initiatives have developed since then with a more comprehensive approach towards processes. Despite all of the resources spent, change has been slow.
This is likely due to the lack of conversation about inclusion; that is, organizations have been slow to adapt their culture to meet the needs of the individual. The key ideas are “acknowledgment in hiring” and “engagement.” Today, companies are recognized for hiring diverse candidates but they often lack an environment of inclusion and belonging.
Once an organization has successfully changed their hiring practices to reach a more diverse audience, they must successfully create a culture of inclusion (i.e. engage and support their employees).
CHI: Do diversity and inclusion impact the bottom line and other key performance metrics? How so?
Dr. Robinson: Research has shown that the more diverse a workplace is, the more success that company experiences. However, there is a 100-year projection for women to achieve economic gender parity. If D&I is not well ingrained into the organization prior to the turn of the century, U.S. is at risk of losing its competitiveness in the global economy. This is particularly important as projections from the Bureau of Labor indicate that women will comprise approximately 50% of the workforce in the coming years.
Historically, political and social events have been the drivers of compliance and policies towards equality. Today, we live in a hyper-connected society where technology drives changes. As millennials and Gen Z enter the workforce, organizations must understand the generational gap between millennials and prior generations. This means that Baby Boomers, Gen Xs, and GenYs all have different learning and performance styles. As a result, organizations must create training programs that target and engage multigenerational learners. This is also important as millennials will make up 50% of the workforce by 2020, and at the same time, 50% of the workforce will work remotely or part-time.
CHI: How are younger generations, specifically women & minorities, impacted by the lack of D&I? Will this impact the types of fields they enter?
Dr. Robinson: Lack of impact or D&I programs will disproportionately impact minorities, such as African Americans, and women. If this continues, these groups will notice downstream effects in the lack of talent in the pipeline and social progress. This will then lead to problems in the retention and effective inclusion of diverse talents and diverse viewpoints within organizations.
Lack of D&I will also impact Generation Z who grew up in an era of internet and an inclusive environment. As they enter the workforce, these individuals are less likely to have any loyalty to these organizations. As a result, it must be a priority for companies to include things they are accustomed to, such as new technologies and software. Additionally, organizations must be agile and adapt their thoughts to include LGBTQ, differently abled, and ethnic minorities. In addition to racial diversity, companies are now faced with the new considerations of age and intersectionality.
CHI: Discuss any calls to action for key decision makers and organizations to build their talent.
Dr. Robinson: Many organizations operate under the assumption that talent must be brought in from the outside, and hired for leadership positions. However, leaders should emphasize continuous improvement and invest in developing the talents of employees within the organization. This creates opportunities for employees to become life-long learners, and adds intellectual capital to the organization.
Companies can maximize returns by implementing training and development programs, such as ongoing skills education, mentoring, or coaching. Such talent development leads to more engaged and innovative staff, and contributes to the bottom line.
CHI: Discuss any calls to action for key decision makers to execute on, and for young women and early stage careerists to change the environment.
Dr. Robinson: Although women have come a long way throughout history by gaining the right to work and vote, there is still a persistent gender gap in the C-suite preventing qualified women from entering the executive pipeline. In fact, women hold less than a quarter of senior executive titles.
Based on my research on what we can learn from women who have made it to the C-Suite, characteristics that make executives successful include:
1. Preparation (e.g. education, lower-level success, broad business learning)
2. Building Strategic Relationships (e.g. Networking, Mentoring, Sponsors)
3. Engaging Organizational Cultures (e.g. Recognizing unconscious biases, Training programs that partner talent with executive leaders)
4. Executive Traits (Develop intangible skills such as confidence, emotional intelligence, and resilience)
Women must take control of their professional development and leadership skills. It is no longer enough to “earn a degree and do your job for the foreseeable future.” In today’s digital age, employees must be able to adapt and thrive with constant age. The workforce must be more agile than ever and be lifelong learners to stay relevant.