Acts of Sponsorship — Realizing the Potential of Diverse SHSMD members

By The SHSMD Team posted 04-20-2021 03:40 PM


By Jhaymee Tynan, Consultant, Global Health, Public and Social Sector, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practice at Egon Zehnder

Last year, the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders had a monumental impact on conversations about race, social justice and diversity, and these events were certainly an awakening for many. Companies across the United States and beyond made statements denouncing racism as well as commitments to equity, diversity and representation by allocating capital and resources.

For health care, the COVID-19 pandemic elevated the focus on the inequity that underrepresented communities face in obtaining access to quality care. While some progress has been made globally to increase diversity in health care leadership, opportunities remain for the advancement of people of color in the executive ranks. In a 2018 study by the American Hospital Association’s Institute for Diversity, only 14% of hospital board members and 9% of CEOs were minorities .

Just prior to these events, I contemplated making a bigger impact in health care leadership. In February 2020, I decided to launch a career initiative called 100x2030 to help increase representation of women of color in health care executive leadership. My commitment was to sponsor 100 women of color in health care within the next 10 years. It was my big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG), and I wanted to make a direct impact by advocating for diversity in health care organizations around the world.

I felt strongly that changing the narrative about the pipeline for underrepresented talent and diverse representation at the senior leadership level started with changing my own perspective, role and responsibility for achieving results. In my opinion, sponsorship is a way to hold executives and leaders accountable for increasing diversity, showing up authentically as allies and modeling the way for future business leaders. It is also fundamental to ensuring BIPOC representatives have a seat at the table in designing strategies to improve health care in communities that have been traditionally overlooked.

What is sponsorship and how is it different from mentorship? When I think about the difference between mentorship and sponsorship, I think of the two “As.” Most leaders are familiar with mentorship — having an advisor who can help guide you. If you are changing jobs or dealing with a difficult situation at work or you simply want a sounding board as you grow in your career, mentors can provide sage advice based on their experience. Mentors can be senior leaders, peers or early careerists, and these relationships can be formal and structured or informal and ad hoc.

Sponsorship, on the other hand, is about advocacy. Sponsors believe in your capabilities and potential and are willing to leverage their social and political capital to help you achieve your career goals. Sponsors are courageous, committed, connected and candid about their sponsorship of you. Throughout my career, I have engaged sponsors to advocate for a promotion, to provide exposure for a high visibility corporate project and even to support my nomination to the SHSMD Board. In all of these instances, my sponsors were willing to mention my name, my work and my accomplishments to influence their peers and enhance my credibility as an executive.

I put my 100x2030 commitment to work by looking within SHSMD for opportunities to sponsor others. I had the pleasure of meeting Terri Flood at one of the SHSMD Connections conferences a couple of years ago. Terri is known within the SHSMD community as a collaborator, a servant leader and an expert in marketing, communications and business development. She has been a member of SHSMD since 2011, and she twice served as the New Member Task Force Chair responsible for creating a welcoming and enriching environment for the newest members.

We instantly bonded over our mutual interests in health care strategic planning and our passions for board service and diversity, equity and inclusion in leadership. We stayed in touch, frequently checking in with one another, and shared best practices, tools and approaches for strategic planning. As a member of the SHSMD Board of Directors, I saw Terri as someone who could expand her role as a leader within the association.

When I thought about ways to sponsor Terri, I immediately wanted to make sure that she received exposure for the work she is doing at Wayne HealthCare. Terri’s leadership, long-time volunteerism with SHSMD, involvement in her community and support from senior leadership led to her promotion to vice president of business development. She is one of Wayne HealthCare’s principal storytellers, and she developed internal and external marketing campaigns, led all community relations and managed the organization's brand reputation. She was extremely successful in recruiting physicians and developing deep relationships with the physician community, helping the organization be nimble and evolve as a rural hospital.

To me, she epitomized what the SHSMD Rising Star Award stands for. Nominating her for the award was an excellent way to take sponsorship action on her behalf and shine a light on her growth and development as a strategy professional. This recognition would allow others to understand and appreciate Terri’s brilliance and validate her executive skills on a national level. Her nomination was a no-brainer.

In April 2020, I picked up the phone and called the president and CEO of Wayne HealthCare, Wayne Deschambeau, to gain his support for her nomination. Without skipping a beat, Mr. Deschambeau emphatically supported her nomination and referred to Terri as a rising star within the Wayne Healthcare organization. Four months later, I received an email from SHSMD indicating that Terri would be one of several recipients of the award.

Acts of sponsorship are small actions that have big impacts. No sponsorship act is too big or too small, and all acts amplify the careers of the next generation of strategy, communications, marketing and public relations professionals in our industry. It is an enriching and powerful way to move the needle for more diverse representation in our discipline. For us to change the trajectory of health equity in the years to come, we need this diversity of voices.