Calls to improve diversity to build better technology and healthcare cultures

​Ahead of her keynote speech at the Rewired 2020 conference, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, president of techUK, has emphasised how diversity and inclusion is required to build better technology, teams and cultures in healthcare.

Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President of techUK, is calling for greater diversity in teams responsible for the creation and production of healthcare technology solutions, as well as within in senior healthcare roles, to reflect the diversity of its users. She argues that increasing diversity and inclusion in the NHS will not only tackle the shortage of skills we face as a community, but also improve products and services, and patient care.

"As evidence shows – including the recently published Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report – there’s still a long way to go, with white candidates having almost double the chance of being appointed to a senior role in the NHS compared to a black or ethnic minority candidate," she commented.

"The potential for the rising use of algorithms to improve the analysis and management of health data, for example, is well documented, but it is also a technology that demonstrates the potential pitfalls of poor diversity. If an algorithm is going to decide if an individual gets a certain medical treatment, place at university, a job interview, or a mortgage, then as a society we had better make sure that the groups designing those algorithms are as diverse and reflective of the patients, potential students, interview candidates or mortgage applicants. If we fail to build a diverse community of technology creators, we are building a world that won’t work properly," she continued.

She warned that failure to tackle diversity and inclusion will exacerbate the skills shortage that healthcare faces and impact the advancements in patient care.

"As technology leaders we have to make sure that, during recruitment, we are looking outward and not inward, to ensure we do not create organisations that are homogenised. Diversity is more than just improving the split between the genders. Important as that is, organisations also need to consider geographical and neuro-diversity," commented Jacqueline. She pointed out that some people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, for example, have the ability to spot patterns that many others cannot see and can bring important skills to an organisation.  

Jacqueline also pointed out that organisations with high levels of diversity in their leadership teams make better decisions. If the NHS is to be successful at recruiting and retaining diverse teams, then the leadership needs to become more open, and one of the best ways to achieve this is to have a more inclusive management team. 

"Healthcare is a sector with one of the most diverse workforces collectively, and should be applauded for that, but the same cannot be said of its leadership teams, and that has to be addressed as technology becomes an increasingly important part of clinical care and operational management," she commented, adding: "An organisation can employ as many diverse people as it likes, but if there isn’t the right support and training for the management to embrace and engender the culture, then a diverse workforce can quickly begin to take on the same behaviours as the leadership team, and the organisation loses the benefits of diversity. 

Jacqueline believes that retaining this 'diversity of thought' is vital: "Organisations are going to have to rethink how they serve the citizen and patient. Technology is going to play a big part in how society changes in the coming years, as humans and machines increasingly come together, in healthcare and in our wider society," she concluded.

Jacqueline de Rojas will be making the opening keynote at the Leadership Summit at 9.05am on 3rd March. Further details on the conference can be found here: https://digitalhealthrewired.com/