At Women’s College Hospital, equity is more than an idea

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Women’s College Hospital was born in 1911 so that medically trained women could practice medicine at a time when it was not possible anywhere else. Since then – for nearly a century – the hospital has remained committed to equity for all.wwToday, Women’s College Hospital continues to push the boundaries of equity, and was recently recognized with a Diversity in Governance Award by Diverse City on Board – a joint initiative of Maytree Foundation and the Toronto City Summit Alliance that aims to transform the leadership landscape across the Greater Toronto Area.

As a recipient of the third annual award, along with United Way Toronto, Women’s College Hospital was recognized for embracing diversity and making it a priority to seek out board members from diverse backgrounds.

“We are honoured to be recognized for our long-standing work in the area of diversity and equity,” says Marilyn Emery, president and CEO, Women’s College Hospital. “This award is shared with all our board members and staff – past and present – whose diverse representation underscores our abiding commitment to equity for our patients, our workforce and our partners.”

The journey to diversify the Women’s College Board began in 2001 when members identified diversity as a specific priority. Since then, the board has engaged in ongoing development and education to increase awareness of the value of diversity in leadership for achieving success in health equity, inclusion and accountability. Today, 30 per cent of board members belong to ethnic and racial minorities.

“Good practice in board governance includes finding the right people to lead,” explains Ratna Omidvar, president of Maytree and co-chair of DiverseCity. “In a city region as diverse as ours, this involves embracing the full spectrum of skills, experiences and connections available. Capitalizing on our immense talent pool is an imperative for today’s nonprofit and public boards.”

In 2008, after two years of tireless work, a committee of board members developed an Equity Vision for the hospital:

Our commitment to optimal health outcomes for diverse women and their families through community-informed, inclusive and responsive services.

At its core, the vision suggests that Women’s College must be inclusive, barrier-free and culturally welcoming and that hospital employees must reflect the diversity of the GTA. That physicians, staff and volunteers must be culturally sensitive to the people they serve. That Women’s College must advocate on behalf of women and women’s health care. And that it conduct leading-edge research to improve women’s health care and the lives of women.

The hospital recently launched a public awareness campaign designed to share its approach to equity – that equity is not something Women’s College just talks about, but something it tries to live every day. Posters – seen throughout the hospital – include real people, real situations and real points of view. They feature staff members, patients, volunteers and community partners talking about their particular experiences at Women’s College and how equity has worked for them.