According to the US Department of Labor, 80 percent of healthcare decisions are made by women. Within Brookdale, 81 percent of our associates and 80 percent of our residents are women. As we celebrate Women’s History Month and all that women have achieved throughout history, it is not lost on me the significant role women play within healthcare. When you consider the numbers reported by the US Department of Labor or even Brookdale’s representation, it’s clear how critical it is that women be involved at both the decision-making and leadership levels.
Giving Women Seats at the Table
When I joined Brookdale in 2015, the executive leadership team and board of directors did not fully reflect the population we served or our associates, and I felt strongly that we could improve our performance as a team by increasing our diversity. Research demonstrates diverse teams perform better. According to a Harvard Business Review article, one report found that companies “in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry mean.”
Further, according to the Harvard Business Review article, “[O]rganizations with at least one female board member yielded higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that did not have any women on the board.” The Harvard Business Review article concludes succinctly, “[N]onhomogeneous teams are simply smarter.” The results speak for themselves. But promoting diversity requires a proactive approach: change requires action.
Our organizations can be better when we actively include diverse voices. With a resolve to integrate more women in leadership within Brookdale, we transformed the demographics of the leaders who made up our board of directors. In 2018, only one woman served on Brookdale’s board. By 2021, the Women’s Forum of New York named Brookdale a Corporate Champion for leading the way toward gender parity on its board.
Seek to Make Changes and It Will Make an Impact
Through the efforts of Kathy MacDonald, our senior vice president of Investor Relations, our focus on diversity captured the attention of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). In May 2020, the leaders of the NYSE invited me to join their board advisory council. The purpose of the NYSE Board Advisory Council is to identify and connect diverse board candidates to NYSE-listed companies seeking new directors. I have been so fortunate to have this opportunity to help place board candidates by fostering connections with companies seeking new directors.
Brookdale also received recognition by 2020 Women on Boards – now known as 50/50 Women on Boards® – a nonprofit global education and advocacy campaign committed to advancing gender balance and diversity on corporate boards, which awarded us the designation of “W” Winning Company for our commitment to board diversity and rated us “GB” for having a gender-balanced board. We received a 2020 Corporate Citizenship Award from the Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board, given annually to a company that demonstrates a strong commitment to corporate responsibility practices and whose leaders are actively engaged in supporting and expanding those efforts. Additionally, Brookdale was honored as a corporate inductee to the Board Walk of Fame by Cable, a Nashville-based women’s networking organization.
Diverse teams perform better. An amazing fusion of ideas has occurred as a result of the collaboration between our veteran leaders (some with more than thirty years of senior living experience) and newcomers to our industry. Several of our recent external hires possess unique healthcare or functional expertise, and their voices have led to a burst of creativity in adapting best practices from their experiences. Executives with deep knowledge outside of senior living (like hospitality or other parts of the healthcare continuum, including hospital systems) have also added enormous value to our business.
As we seek to learn and grow each day, our greatest focus is on those whose care we’ve been entrusted to provide. When we consider the incredible accomplishments of women this month, I am inspired by our associates and look at our residents and marvel at all they have witnessed and encountered. For some, they witnessed a time when women didn’t have the right to vote or to have the opportunity to be educated or have a profession. During my community visits, so many residents have reached out to tell me how much it means to them to see a woman leading Brookdale. I am so honored by their support and pleased to carry the torch. It is for them and all our residents and associates that we are committed to leadership that represents everyone.