Chasm Conversations

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

March 13, 2024

In the second installment of our four-part series honoring Women’s History Month, we had the privilege of speaking with Tia Butler, Chief People and Diversity Officer at NCQA and recent Chasm Partners placement, to gather her unique perspectives and insights on DEI in the healthcare sector. 

Missed Part One of this series? Catch up here.

About Tia Butler

Ms. Tia N. Butler currently serves as the Chief People and Diversity Officer for the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), whose mission is to improve the quality of healthcare. NCQA helps millions of people stay healthy and saves the country billions of dollars by measuring and accrediting health plans; NCQA uses measurement, transparency, and accountability to highlight top performers and drive improvement. Prior to joining NCQA in January 2024, Ms. Butler served 15 years in government, mostly as a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and last as a Chief Human Capital Officer within the Department of Health and Human Services. 

What does DEI mean to you?

DEI means respecting and appreciating our differences; creating opportunities to close the gap and leveling the playing field for those who’ve been historically marginalized or underserved. It also means seeking to ensure that all can experience a true sense of belonging in any and every environment.

How do you define DEI within the context of healthcare, and why is it important?

Within healthcare, diversity means there is no one-size-fits-all solution because the healthcare needs of the population are as diverse as the population itself. Regarding equity, there is no equity in healthcare until we’ve removed the numerous barriers, from geographical access to care to expanding preventive options in underserved communities and ensuring medication affordability, among others. Inclusion, on the other hand, is both broadening the population that we’re considering as we evaluate data to inform future healthcare decisions and an acknowledgment that inclusion leads to greater innovation. When we intentionally seek to include diverse thoughts and perspectives, we begin to change how we identify and even solve problems. Together, diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare are an integrated imperative to begin to eliminate the disparities that are so prevalent in healthcare.

In what ways do you see organizations or other professionals “miss the mark” when it comes to DEI programs? 

Many organizations fall short in their DEI efforts when they narrowly focus on representation, particularly in traditionally defined demographics like race/ethnicity and gender. While representation is crucial, it's just one piece of a complex puzzle; several other factors must come into play. For instance, has the organization clearly defined and communicated its values around DEI? Is there a tangible link between these values and the overall mission, ensuring that all employees grasp why DEI matters to the organization and the bottom line? Moreover, is the organization actively holding leaders and employees accountable for embodying these values and behaviors? Consistency between words and actions is paramount as contradictions can undermine the entire DEI initiative and do a lot more harm than just miss the mark.

How do you ensure that the voices of underrepresented groups are heard and included in healthcare decision-making processes? 

One of the easiest ways to ensure that the voices of underrepresented groups are heard and included is to ensure they are represented at the table when the conversations are underway. Diverse individuals bring not only diverse backgrounds but diversity in their lived experiences. Whether representing their own diverse identity or sharing another’s perspective, the ability to speak and be heard can create a pause in the discussion, allowing the opportunity to consider something more than the status quo. When women or other underrepresented groups don’t have a “reserved” seat at the table, it becomes even more important to extend the invitation so their voices can be considered during the healthcare decision-making process, ultimately enriching the dialogue and fostering more inclusive outcomes.

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

I approach individuals with curiosity, asking questions to uncover the root cause of their resistance or pushback. Through these dialogues, some individuals come to realize that their resistance may stem from bias and are open to shifting perspectives, while others remain steadfast in their resistance. This underscores the importance of organizations clearly articulating why DEI is integral to the bottom line. Research indicates that challenges with diversity often indicate issues with equity and inclusion as well. Inclusion, in particular, distinguishes between a positive and negative workplace culture. Inclusive organizations tend to be more innovative and productive, and have higher retention rates. When leaders and employees grasp this, resistance to DEI initiatives becomes more challenging to justify.

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

Tia Butler
Chief People and Diversity Officer

Tia Butler

Chief People and Diversity Officer

Ms. Tia N. Butler currently serves as the Chief People and Diversity Officer for the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), whose mission is to improve the quality of healthcare. Prior to joining NCQA in January 2024, Ms. Butler served 15 years in government, mostly as a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES). 

Ms. Butler began her career in public service with the Department of the Navy and held SES positions most recently as the Chief Human Capital Officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Prior to joining CMS, Ms. Butler served as the Deputy Associate Director for Retirement Services (DC) at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the Executive Director of the Corporate Senior Executive Management Office at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). At VA, she served as the principal advisor to the VA Chief of Staff and Assistant Secretary, Human Resources & Administration on enterprise executive management and was appointed by the VA to the White House Advisory Group on SES Reform under President Obama. Ms. Butler has also worked as a Consultant in both the management consulting and public relations/advertising fields. 

Ms. Butler has a BA in Anthropology from the University of Virginia and a MA in Education and Human Development, with a concentration in Human & Organizational Learning from George Washington University. 

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