In A Leadership Perspective, Baylor Scott & White Health leaders share insights on healthcare industry trends, current issues and best practices.
As Chief Diversity Officer for Baylor Scott & White, Guwan Jones is a big believer in the power of listening. In her leadership of our organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts, she makes it her mission to listen — to the career aspirations of employees and to the needs of the communities those employees serve.
Her role involves overseeing diversity efforts for a workforce of nearly 50,000 employees who care for a patient population spanning across the state of Texas. It’s a large undertaking, but one she approaches with a true sense of purpose.
In Guwan’s eyes, diversity is about more than achieving balance; it’s about trying to understand one another. In healthcare, understanding is key to shaping a positive patient experience.
What continues to drive
“One of the things I want to leave with the organization as my legacy is this idea of always being curious,” she said. “You can always learn something from someone. That’s what I spend my time doing — just learning and listening to people.”
In the spirit of learning, we sat down with Guwan to get her thoughts on diversity and why it matters in healthcare.
Q: Why are you passionate about helping others see the importance of diversity?
What’s interesting in my role is that I’ve always been really fascinated with human behavior. I like to hear people explain to me why they believe a certain way and hopefully offer some alternatives.
Most people probably feel like from a diversity standpoint, I’m here to tell you how wrong you are about the way you think about things. But the reality is, the way you think about things is because of your experiences — so it’s everything from the TV shows you’ve watched, the news that you’ve seen, the papers you read. But it’s also the fact that you live in a community that, in large part, is a lot like you. So, if you’ve never encountered anyone that isn’t a lot like you, you don’t know these different perspectives.
What’s interesting in my role is that I’ve always been really fascinated with human behavior. I like to hear people explain to me why they believe a certain way and hopefully offer some alternatives. In healthcare, we are really trying to battle unconscious bias.
Q: What inspired you to pursue this career path?
I never thought I would be a Chief Diversity Officer, but I knew I wanted to work in healthcare in some capacity. I was a rather sick kid and spent a lot of time in hospitals and around doctors.
I went to undergraduate school with the intent of going to medical school. I’ve always been the sort of person who wants to help take care of the underdog. I realized through a part-time job while I was in undergraduate school that maybe being a physician wasn’t for me, but that there are a lot of different ways to help people. I went into public health and originally joined the healthcare system working on health equity issues.
Now as Chief Diversity Officer, I get a chance to propel people’s career aspirations and help build an environment where they feel inspired and excited. I also get to look at things like: Are we providing the right language assistance for patients? And, are there opportunities to better get that voice of the patient in the decisions we’re making?
How I got here was kind of happenstance, but God knows best.
Q: What do your day-to-day duties as Chief Diversity Officer look like?
Basically, I am responsible in our healthcare system for looking at how talent are progressing and seeing if there are programs we need to be more reflective of our market. We are very aware of who we are serving and wanting to be sure that we get those opinions when making big decisions across the healthcare system.
Q: How is diversity shaping the future of healthcare?
What we know about healthcare is that it’s very old. We’re slower to move because we are very scientifically rooted and very evidence-based in how we do things. We haven’t moved like we need to with what’s happening in the environment. What you’re noticing in healthcare
What you’re noticing in healthcare in general is this understanding that we’ve got to pay more attention to those underserved populations.
Q: How does listening play into the patient experience?
Perception is really reality for people. Until you give them alternatives and new pieces of information and context, your perception is your reality.
So, listening to what people say, understanding what community leaders think of us and working in those pockets where there are opportunities for us to better our reputation and our offerings for a particular population is really how I figure out what to work on.
For example, we know that Dallas-Fort Worth is a resettlement area. People fleeing different countries resettle here once they leave the conflicts, or religious or political persecution they’re facing in their home countries. They come here to start over. So, what does that mean for utilizing our healthcare system? Do we understand what healthcare is like in their home country? Do we have support systems with translation and interpretation for those populations? I then research to come up with ways for us to train our staff, so we can better communicate with those patients.
Q: How do you feel about the female presence in the healthcare industry? Why is the voice of women important?
What’s interesting is when you look at our most senior levels, there aren’t as many women as we’d like to see there, but compared to other industries, we’re doing a lot better. Still, we don’t see the rise of female leadership within the most senior levels of our organization. This is not unlike any other industry and not unlike any other healthcare organization.
We know that females drive healthcare decisions, so it makes sense for us to get that voice at the table — everything from looking at how do we support women doing more networking and how do we support leadership development is on our radar.
We know that females drive healthcare decisions, so it makes sense for us to get that voice at the table.
I’m excited that the organization sees it that way and that they’re giving me some latitude to think differently about how we do that. The word is getting out that we’ve got to come together as a group in order to support upward mobility. It’s an exciting time for women in our healthcare system right now. There’s nothing but opportunity.
At Baylor Scott & White, we’re proud to celebrate the women who make us Better every day. Discover more stories from the women who are inspiring a future filled with more innovation, opportunity and hope.