Chasm Conversations

Women Who Advocate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Healthcare: Part One

March 6, 2024

Each year, the National Women’s History Month Alliance picks a theme for the month-long celebration of Women’s History Month. This year, the theme centers around “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” In line with this concept, Chasm has reached out to female leaders within our network who have dedicated their careers to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), reflecting their profound commitment to the cause.

In the first installment of our four-part series, we had the privilege of speaking with Yukiko Wu, Co-Founder and Chief People Officer at Gather Health, to collect her unique perspectives and insights on DEI in the healthcare sector.

About Yukiko Wu

Yukiko brings with her over 20 years of experience in the people and talent industry. She is currently the Co-Founder & Chief People Officer of Gather Health Primary Care, Inc., a venture-backed startup organization that offers a unique set of healthcare and social services to older adults on Medicare. Before joining Gather Health, she served as the head of people for a PE-backed, technology-enabled specialty pharmacy startup, Trellis Rx in Atlanta, GA. Her passion is providing guidance and coaching to business leaders on how to cultivate a healthy work environment in practical, authentic, and strategic ways that ultimately drive business results.

Can you share with us your journey and motivation in advocating for DEI in healthcare?

In my extensive experience spanning over two decades in HR and talent acquisition, I've consistently advocated for equity in the workplace, particularly through educational initiatives aimed at leadership. One pivotal aspect has been emphasizing the importance of ensuring pay equity from the outset of hiring processes. Less than a decade ago, it was standard practice for companies to inquire about candidates' current salaries and base offers on that figure. However, this practice not only perpetuated pay disparities for women and people of color but also entrenched a cycle of inequality. Employers often determined compensation levels, in part, based on candidates' negotiation skills rather than the true value of the role's responsibilities.

Despite increasing legislation across states prohibiting inquiries into candidates' salary history, many hiring managers remain unaware of the rationale behind such laws. By elucidating the purpose of these measures, particularly as part of the Equal Pay Act, and highlighting our role in closing the pay gap for marginalized groups, leaders become more actively engaged in discussions around fairness. Consequently, they approach salary negotiations with a newfound perspective, moving away from traditional approaches towards a more equitable stance.

What strategies do you employ to engage stakeholders in conversations about DEI?

In my experience, integrating DEI discussions into everyday workplace scenarios yields the greatest impact. As I mentioned, an important part of this requires educating hiring managers on our role in narrowing the gender pay gap by basing our offer decisions on job roles and responsibilities rather than negotiation prowess. This is just one example of how we infuse DEI principles into our interactions from the onset of the employment relationship. During new-hire orientations, we delve into the history behind Gather’s core values — like Equity, Compassion, and Joy — and how they shape our distinct company culture. It's not just about stating Mission, Vision, and Values; it's about unpacking their significance and illustrating how they manifest in real workplace dynamics. This approach fosters a culture where behaviors align with our core values, ultimately driving meaningful change.

How do you navigate potential resistance or pushback from individuals or organizations when advocating for DEI?

I believe that getting pushback is better than silence. If leaders merely silently agree to participate in DEI-driven programs without truly believing in their significance, the whole initiative loses its meaning. If leaders or employees voice skepticism about DEI, I would encourage organizations to welcome that vocalization and ask questions about the origin of their resistance. Participating in DEI programs without grasping their purpose risks relegating them to just another item on the checklist of mandatory tasks for employees. So, I say it's okay for individuals to voice their concerns and opinions as long as we continue to have these important conversations.

How do you measure the impact of DEI initiatives, and what metrics do you find most meaningful?

While I recognize the significance of diversity statistics and believe they offer insights into an organization's progress — or lack thereof — in fostering diversity, I've discovered that obtaining genuine feedback from employees provides the most accurate gauge of sentiment. Simply relying on periodic employee engagement surveys, no matter how frequently they're administered, may not capture the full spectrum of employee experiences. It's crucial to create avenues for your workforce to openly share their thoughts and opinions. Encourage discussions about their overall employment experiences, with DEI being just one facet that influences job satisfaction. This approach ensures a more comprehensive understanding of employee perspectives and fosters a culture of openness and inclusivity.

What advice would you give to other women who aspire to become advocates for DEI in the healthcare field?

Embrace difficult conversations. Discussing DEI isn't always easy — it can stir up discomfort and trigger reactions in many individuals, which often leads to avoidance. However, navigating through these uncomfortable moments and reaching a place of mutual respect and shared understanding is a valuable skill applicable across all aspects of business, not just DEI. Therefore, DEI isn't solely relevant to historically categorized "underrepresented" groups; it impacts everyone within the organization. Meaningful discussions about DEI can only occur when all parties believe in its importance and power.

Follow Chasm Partners on LinkedIn to catch the three remaining parts of our Women's History Month series.

Yukiko Wu
Co-Founder & Chief People Officer, Gather Health

Yukiko Wu

Co-Founder & Chief People Officer, Gather Health

Yukiko brings with her over twenty years of experience in the people and talent industry. She is currently the Co-Founder & Chief People Officer of Gather Health Primary Care, Inc., a venture-backed startup organization that offers a unique set of healthcare and social services to older adults on Medicare. Before joining Gather Health, she served as the head of people for a PE-backed, technology-enabled specialty pharmacy startup, Trellis Rx in Atlanta, GA. Her passion is providing guidance and coaching to business leaders on how to cultivate a healthy work environment in practical, authentic, and strategic ways that ultimately drive business results.

Having grown up in Japan until the age of twelve, Yukiko has an appreciation for the power of diversity in life and business. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola University in Baltimore, MD. She resides in Massachusetts with her (former musician turned stay-at-home dad) husband, two sons who are growing up too fast, plus two dogs and two cats who are generally better-behaved than her human family members.

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