Fighting for diversity in the HIT world

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Five years after Joan Reede, MD, became the dean for diversity and community at Harvard, a male executive asked why she had not solved the diversity problem. She replied, “I’ve been here for five years and you’ve had this problem for hundreds of years.”

Diversity, including gender bias, remains a problem across society and Reede, during a May 12 presentation at Health Data Management’s Most Powerful Women in HIT conference in Boston, challenged attendees, many who already have attained executive positions, to go further to advance diversity. She recalled meeting a young African American women who told her that she didn’t know an African American could be a doctor. “How can you become something you never dreamed or imagined?” Reede asked the audience.

Diversity has to be linked to the mission, regardless of what that mission is, Reede said. There must be an unambiguous commitment by an organization, evidence-based goals, education and training, data to aid in identifying and implementing changes, and a process for holding people accountable and recognizing excellence. “For each of us, intercede, recognize and act. Don’t hold back.”

Reede spoke of personal leadership and looking inward. “Know who you are: don’t own other people’s myths about who you are. We contribute to what’s going on in our environment. You do not own someone else’s problem. You don’t have to react to someone else’s expectations. Set your own expectations in a society with all kinds of barriers to diversity.”

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