Businesses are prioritizing inclusion and diversity—and creating a seat at the senior leadership table to address needs in those areas. According to a 2019 study, roughly half of S&P 500 companies employed a chief diversity officer, with nearly two-thirds of those having been appointed or promoted to their roles within the previous three years.
This summer, Cook Children's Health Care System in Fort Worth, Texas, joined a growing number of children's hospitals with these senior-level positions by promoting Winifred King to its newly created role of chief diversity officer.
Children's Hospitals Today caught up with King to discuss her new position, how she'll define success, and how her 13 years of working in communications for Cook Children's will shape her approach.
As chief diversity officer is a newly established position at Cook Children's, what are your primary responsibilities and priorities?
I'm developing ideas as to what I want the roles and responsibilities to be, and how I want to approach this job. I want to stay within the framework that we have defined as our Cook Children's experience.
The primary objectives are to focus on the team experience, what our employees are going through and what we need to create a more diverse landscape for Cook Children's. We want to make sure that each of our employees feels valued, respected and welcome here. Cook Children's is already a great place to work—I really see my position as making it an even greater place to work.
As you work toward those goals, how do you plan to measure and define success?
In terms of measurements—particularly on the diversity side—it will be easier to do. You can increase numbers—bring in employees of color and people who are different than the majority. That's easy to measure. The harder parts are the inclusion and equity.
To better understand the inclusion and equity parts, I'm planning to organize a focus group; I want to hear from our employees:
- What are they experiencing?
- What are they feeling?
- Do they feel welcome?
- Do they feel valued?
I want to start there soon, and then I'd like to come back in another year and see where we are. Have we moved the needle? Are our employees feeling better about where they are, what they're doing and how they're seen? To me, it's very important that we get our employee base to a sweet spot; we have to get our employees to a place of really high engagement, feeling the organization values them, and they are really wanted. That is going to be a big deal.
Your career journey has been heavily focused on the communications side. How important is that experience as you embark upon this new challenge?
I think it's critically important; it is going to be crucial.
One of the things I really want to use in this work is storytelling. I think storytelling will help employees in the majority group understand other viewpoints—those of minorities. Telling those stories—featuring them in articles, showing them in videos and helping them explain their experiences will be very important.
Think about movies you've seen that really move you. One of my favorites is Steel Magnolias—I absolutely love that movie. No one in that movie looks like me, but I relate to that movie because it speaks to family. It speaks to love. It speaks to the loss of family members—how that felt and the support of friends, family and community. I can really relate to the scenes surrounding that movie, and that's the thing I want to do here at Cook Children's.
This role is not only new to Cook Children's but also a unique-albeit becoming more common-position in children's hospitals. How do you view your place at the forefront of this movement?
It makes me feel proud, and I'm extremely proud that Cook Children's is such a forward-thinking organization. And the good news is, this is not only going to greatly benefit our employees, but ultimately this is going to be a great benefit for our patients and their families—that is what's most important.
We focus on the employees because they are the heart and the soul of this organization, but we serve patients and patients' families. And to serve their needs, we need our employees be at their best-not only from a physical standpoint, but from a wellness standpoint.
I want them to feel more comfortable here. I want them to feel like this is a place where they can breathe deeply. We have a lot of parents coming here under tremendous stress with sick children. We don't want our employees to be dealing with that and then also having to deal with people not understanding them because of their culture, religion or whatever it might be. We need to be able to make them feel comfortable and breathe deeply when they're here dealing with sick children.
I'm elated that Cook Children's felt the need to do this. And when you look around the country, it is something we all need to do.Learn more: King discusses one key trait she plans to utilize in her new role as chief diversity officer.