Speaker delves into workplace diversity

Dartmouth-Hitchcock President and CEO highlights inclusion during Chamber series

Telegraph photo by ADAM URQUHART Dartmouth-Hitchcock President and CEO Joanne Mather Conroy on Tuesday speaks to a Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce members regarding diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

NASHUA – “When we know each other, and know where we came from, and know what drives us, and know what our aspirations are – it’s very difficult to think in terms of us and them. It becomes we.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock President and CEO Joanne Mather Conroy made this comment during her Tuesday speech at the Business Over Breakfast event, organized by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

Audience members joined her and two panelists – Chief Development Officer at the International Institute of New England Elsa Gomes Bondlow and professor of psychology at Saint Anselm College Loretta Brady – for a discussion on diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

The chamber hosted this event, as well as similar sessions in January and February. Tuesday’s discussion delved into the need for more women and immigrants in New Hampshire’s workforce, especially in leadership positions.

“A lot of people think one woman on the board – one and done,” Conroy said. “That’s actually insufficient. You need to have at least 30 percent of women on your boards and 30 percent of women on your executive teams to really see the value of diversity.”

She said this same rule of thumb applies with ethnic diversity in the workplace, as well. She wants every young person to have opportunities at fulfilling their career without gender or race getting in their way of success.

Additionally, she said companies with greater diversity have a higher total shareholder return. However, she made it clear that education alone is not a remedy for inequity, citing examples such as pay inequity and the struggles that come with navigating child care.

“Minority women actually earn less than white, non-Hispanic women, and they have an additional layer of disadvantage,” Conroy said. “This is something that we have to address, actually, outside of gender issues. There are significant racial and cultural disparities in pay.”

“The pay gap probably, at the rate we’re going now, is not going to close for 100 years. And if you even look at leadership, it will take us 100 years to have equity in leadership if we go at the pace we’re going right now,” Conroy continued.

She pointed out that in health care, the workforce consists of 80 percent women, while board governance is only about 28 percent. When it comes to higher level positions for women, she said 18 percent of hospital CEOs are women, while just 8 percent are CEOs of the top 100 hospitals.

Conroy said women want to be promoted just as much as men, but are less likely to be tapped on the shoulder and offered those positions. Blind resumes help take away gender and ethnic presumptions people may make during the interview and recruitment process because names are withheld.

However, she highlighted an issue many women face, minority or not, and that is child care. She said women feel disproportionately disadvantaged because of the limitations of child care options, and expense of child care. She said this is the premier complaint she hears from young female faculty members.

Also, with New Hampshire’s population being about 90 percent Caucasian, Conroy said within her organization, there is a struggle to get diverse candidates needed in the state. She said the state will be at a disadvantage if multiple voices are not heard at the table. However, of those voices that are being heard, she said women still face pay inequity.

“Women still earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns,” Conroy said.

Brady said the U.S. Department of State defines a fragile state as somewhere lacking economic opportunity, with social divisions within society. She said when that is present, it promotes leadership that will derail the interest of the state.

“We are a fragile state,” Brady said, as she moved on to discuss how she was born in New Hampshire and has been hearing her entire life the state has no diversity.

“Diversity is about all the things that we have that differ from each other,” Bondlow added.

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