Resource Center Poster Session I

Addressing Race & Racism As a Strategy to Impact Workforce Diversity in Healthcare
Tuesday, March 12, 2013: 12:00 PM - 07:30 PM, OAK, East Hall
The YWCA Greater Milwaukee created a diversity training program solely focused on race and racism, in partnership with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, a system with hospitals and clinics throughout the Midwest with over 12,000 employees and 1,578,298 patients served in fiscal year 2011.

With the YWCA’s mission centered on eliminating racism, and the healthcare system’s commitment to diversity and inclusion from an employee/patient care perspective, training was delivered to human resources and system-wide leaders to address demographic outcomes.  

The training addressed a possible root cause for why one of the healthcare system’s strategic initiatives, having a workforce that mirrors its patient population, was not progressing and achieving desired results. The healthcare system found while the patient demographics diversified, the workforce lagged behind. This indicator, employee and patient demographic data, revealed the need to revisit HR recruitment and retention strategies.

Addressing race directly in an interactive, hands-on format assisted the HR staff in understanding how historical perspectives on race can impact hiring outcomes. The training, designed to provide solid information (demographics, information on race/racism, opportunities to discuss cultural differences at healthcare facilities throughout the Midwest) gave staff a newfound level of confidence for addressing race more openly with hiring managers. Success can be measured in a changed mindset.  HR Managers and recruiters are now supported in communicating the need to make hiring decisions that will cause this healthcare system to reflect the populations served and better address issues of racism as they appear within the institution.

This training could be adapted for healthcare systems committed to diversifying their workforce and ensuring a strong, culturally competent staff.  It requires a commitment from senior management to analyze demographic data, use non-traditional recruitment strategies for sourcing candidates and identifying methods for retaining a diverse workforce.

This approach developed staff competencies to challenge the structures and systems that maintain the status quo in employee demographics.  As staff are supported to question how systems (where we recruit and screen employees, how we challenge hiring managers around hiring people of color, how we retain people of color in front-line and leadership positions) are created and maintained we begin to chip away at existing aspects of structural racism to impact staffing outcomes. Addressing race directly is not an easy task for any institution, but health disparities and disparate outcomes for communities of color demand these changes in thinking and strategies.

The teaching approach that made this successful was having two instructors, one a woman of color and the other a white woman, who provided context and safety for staff to question each other and the instructors on how to think differently about race issues at work. A panel of people of color from within the institution provided tangible examples of how race is experienced at work and what allies can do to counteract those experiences. Time-permitting, we will provide resources to assist participants in thinking about these issues as it relates to their healthcare system.

  • WFH YWCA Training Overview Outcomes.docx (28.8 kB)
  • Presentation Information:

    Program: Poster Presentations (Main Conference)
    Primary Category: Cultural Competence Training
    Subtopics: Race / racism understanding, Leadership development/training, Assessing learning/performance on cultural competence/disparity reduction

    Region Addressed by Presentation: US - Midwest
    Organization: Health Care System

    Martha Barry, PhD , YWCA Greater Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
      Racial Justice Director
      YWCA Greater Milwaukee
      1915 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
      Milwaukee WI, USA 53212

      Phone: 414-267-3204
      Email Address:

      Biographical Sketch:
      Martha Barry has a PhD and 15 years in corporate HR along with five years working on race and racism issues in Milwaukee. As the Racial Justice Director for the YWCA Greater Milwaukee, her work includes providing community education on eliminating racism through a six-part series Unlearning Racism: Tools for Action. In the past four years, over 150 individuals from nonprofits, businesses, faith groups and government agencies have attended the course and begun implementing changes in their organizations. Dr. Barry has adapted the series for Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and other nonprofit organizations. Dr. Barry previously worked for 10 years providing public education, fund development and capacity building for nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland, California as well as in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    Theresa Jones , Diversity & Inclusion, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Milwaukee, WI
      Vice-President, Diversity and Inclusion Strategies
      Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare
      Diversity & Inclusion
      400 W. River Woods Parkway
      Milwaukee WI, USA 53212

      Phone: 414-465-3433
      Email Address:

      Biographical Sketch:
      Theresa Jones, Vice-President, Diversity and Inclusion Strategies, has over 30 years of Human Resources/Diversity Management experience and 20 years in healthcare. In this role, she provides oversight to Wheatonís diversity and inclusion strategy which includes workforce diversity, cultural competence, community and patient education, mentoring program, language access services, workforce development, and community sponsorships. Ms. Jones consults across the organization on cross-cultural communication, providing a culturally competent patient experience and has been instrumental in the development and advancement of the organizationís diversity strategy.

    Leslie Galloway Sherard, SPHR, and, MILR , Diversity & Incusion Strategies, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Glendale, WI
      Director, Diversity & Inclusion Programs
      Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare
      Diversity & Incusion Strategies
      400 W. River Woods Parkway
      Glendale WI, USA 53212

      Phone: 414-465-3504
      Email Address:

      Biographical Sketch:
      Leslie Galloway Sherard, SPHR. has a masterís degree from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. She is new to healthcare but has over 20 years of HR experience in various industries. In her current role, she is responsible for the development, implementation, analysis and reporting on diversity and inclusion programs. The specific ares include Workforce: developing strategies to support attracting, promoting and retaining a diverse workforce; Workplace: developing system wide education strategies and directing the efforts of our 8 diversity strategy teams and Community; building collaborative partnerships with organizations that can help support our diversity strategies and improve the patient and family experience