In the midst of a global pandemic that has claimed 400,000 lives, our communities are experiencing civil and social unrest unlike anything we have seen in recent memory.
Following recent demonstrations against police violence in the United States, like many of you, I have been consumed with a range of emotions. I am angry. I am heartbroken. I am repulsed. I feel frustrated and frightened and hungry for change.
One emotion I haven’t felt is surprised. The tragic death of George Floyd sparked many of the demonstrations we’re seeing across the globe, but there are other victims who have died in a similar fashion. Tragically, there are others whose names we’ve never heard or seen in the headlines.
This event has brought the dynamics of racial inequality to the forefront of our attention. Throughout this past week, Cerner’s leadership has been reflecting on what this means for all of us, both personally and organizationally. More importantly, we’re considering what we can and should be doing to erase the systemic inequalities that some have experienced within our culture and our industry. These inequalities play out in both large and small ways in our daily lives, and they intersect in the areas of race, gender, sexual orientation, access to education and health care and other socio-economic factors.
Acknowledging institutional racism, condemning bigotry in all its forms and voicing unequivocal support for our associates of color is simply not enough. These words mean little without deliberate action. After all, we aren’t what we say; we are what we do.
Since I joined Cerner in October 2018, I have been proud of the meaningful strides we have made in creating a more equitable, diverse and inclusive culture. Within the past two weeks alone, Cerner’s Diversity & Inclusion team has worked around the clock to provide our associates with the following resources to help navigate these challenging times, to heal and to move forward:
We launched an internal site - Inclusion: Bridging, Becoming, Belonging - to shape our inclusive behaviors to ensure that all associates feel that they belong.
We released our Allies in Action internal video series, which features thought leaders from both Cerner and from our communities to support candid conversations about diversity in the workplace.
We provided associates with an internal discussion forum, within which they may share their commitments to creating and supporting diversity and inclusion at Cerner.
Still, we know these measures are not enough. It is no secret that the tech industry has long struggled with diversity . As Cerner Chief Human Resources Officer Tracy Platt said in her recent blog :
“We can’t reach our mission of creating a seamless world where everyone thrives if we aren’t truly an inclusive workplace.”
Diversity of thought breeds innovation, but all too often, the differences that define us as individuals are stifled through broader societal issues – racism, discrimination, bias, underrepresentation, intolerance, inequity – which manifest themselves in our organizational structures.
I am not the first to admit that Cerner isn’t immune to these concerns, and I am committed to making incremental changes toward progress. In September 2019, Tracy Platt and I joined Cerner Chairman and CEO Brent Shafer in signing the CEO Action Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion , uniting leaders from more than 900 companies in a common commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
"To be successful in our mission of relentlessly seeking breakthrough innovation that will shape tomorrow’s health care, we need to foster a work environment where associates of all cultures, backgrounds and viewpoints are able to bring their best selves to work and unleash their full potential.”
Brent Shafer, Cerner Chairman and CEO
In January, we launched several new Associate Business Resource Groups to give associates a voice and a platform to help shape Cerner’s culture by providing guidance and feedback on initiatives to ensure they are inclusive. Additionally, these groups serve as networking organizations that help associates connect and further develop their careers.
In March, Cerner’s talent acquisition team implemented an AI-enabled platform that masks candidate information that research has shown leads to unconscious bias. Additionally, we have worked to incorporate varying levels of bias training for Cerner’s recruiters and interviewers to support their awareness and ensure truly equitable hiring decisions.
Last Friday, seven leaders of our ABRGs joined Brent and me to discuss ways to push Cerner’s diversity and inclusion efforts forward. I spent the weekend reflecting on the CEO Action Pledge and this Diversity Roundtable.
To me, these crises have underscored our efforts to address our own shortcomings. While we’ve made improvements, the past weeks have reminded all of us that we have a long way to go before we achieve true equality.
Just as importantly, they have reminded us of the growing socioeconomic disparities that affect communities of color. It’s widely reported that black people make up a disproportionate share of the coronavirus cases in the United States due to lack of access to affordable, quality care. For years, Cerner’s First Hand Foundation has been committed to serving school districts with diverse populations to help close the gaps in care for children, but we are working to take these commitments a step further in the months and years to come.
Racism affects everyone, no matter the color of our skin. It is a problem that we as a company, community and society must acknowledge and work to fix. Together.
As I said before, words are not enough. Condemning racism is not enough. We need action and accountability. I vow to use revisit these topics and provide periodic updates on Cerner’s ongoing efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive world, which starts by looking inward at our own practices and policies.
I am calling on all of Cerner’s associates, clients and partners to connect, collaborate and create meaningful change. Now is the time to listen and learn from one another, and to turn these learnings into active civic engagement. Hold us accountable and be part of an enduring solution.
It is the time to collaborate with community leaders and leverage data to eradicate health disparities and develop solutions that make health care more accessible and equitable for all.
It is the time to build lasting policies, processes and programs that advance genuine diversity in the health care and technology industries.
And it is a time to use our platforms and our resources to overcome these systemic challenges and build a better, healthier world for us all.