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Midstate organizations make diversity a principal, not just a statistic  

To promote diversity and inclusion across its footprint, York-based WellSpan Health set a goal to increase diversity in its leadership team to 15%. To get there, it established four pillars it would abide by to increase awareness, pledged to recruit more diverse employees and identified the effort as a mission-critical strategy. 

The same is true for Carlisle-based Giant Co., which has set its own goal to be 100% inclusive. The company’s inclusivity goals are integrated into its business strategy and imbedded across departments. 

For Midstate businesses finding success as diverse hirers, company-wide diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals have become less like objectives and more like a part of their DNA. 

Dr. Roxanna Gapstur, president and CEO of WellSpan Health. PHOTO/PROVIDED

“If you see any research on this work, one thing you always see is the importance of the commitment of the CEOs,” said Kimberly Brister, chief diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) officer at WellSpan. “[WellSpan CEO and President Dr. Roxanna Gapstur] felt that DEI was critical to any organization’s mission and she wanted to be more intentional. It takes your CEO to be committed to stand in front of this work and identify it as a mission-critical strategy — not only for the team members but for the diverse community you serve.” 

At WellSpan that has meant enacting four key pillars of DEI, which include building awareness, recruitment and retention, addressing needs in the LGBTQA+ community and closing inclusivity gaps. 

As a part of Giant’s DEI efforts, the supermarket chain established an inclusion council; a team comprised of GIANT employees, community members and vendor partners that share insights and exchange ideas around diversity and inclusion. The team recently sampled Giant’s top 400 leaders for a training session on unconscious bias. 

An organization that prioritizes diversity is promoting an environment where employees can be themselves, said Nicholas Bertram, president of the Giant Company. 

“Creativity is the output of diversity,” said Bertram. “We are guided by our values, and they push us toward doing things like this. It’s made our company stronger.” 

Nicholas Bertram, president and CEO of the Giant Co. FILE

For organizations like Giant and WellSpan, imbedding DEI into the fabric of what they do provides a competitive advantage along with its social implications. 

Pennsylvania has seen a significant increase in diversity since 2010 across the board, according to the Pennsylvania 2020 Census. Since 2010, Black residents in Pennsylvania increased by 9.8%; American Indian and Alaska Native by 133.3%; Asian by 50%; and Hispanic or Latino by 35.2%. 

The census data reaffirms the importance of inclusivity and diversity efforts as a hiring tool, said Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance (YCEA). 

This month, the YCEA launched Welcoming Workplaces, a coalition of employers that share resources regarding DEI. The effort launched with an inaugural class of York area businesses and will be accepting more businesses interested in joining the coalition and receiving the designation of Welcoming Workplace. 

Welcoming Workplaces creates a pathway for businesses to embed DEI efforts into their DNA similarly to how employers like Giant and WellSpan have. In order to receive the designation, a company needs to identify their DEI efforts with YCEA and put in place the steps necessary to embody the tenants of Welcoming Workplaces, according to Schreiber. 

As a Welcoming Workplace, businesses look to support the diversity of talent in the workplace through talent attraction, talent retention, policies and procedures and knowledge sharing. 

“The underpinnings of the Welcoming Workplace initiative is to attract and retain the best and brightest talented workforce to our county and her employers,” said Schreiber. “We look forward to growing this coalition and campaign.” 

The initiative was created by the Confronting Racism Coalition, made up of individuals and organizations from predominately York County. It was among a set of recommendations adopted by the YCEA in its strategic plan. 

The inaugural class of Welcoming Workplace includes YCEA, Traditions Bank, Crispus Attucks York and WellSpan. 

Inclusive leadership has been a key component of the process of Welcoming Workplaces,” said Gapstur, co-chair of the council. “Having a chance to gather the top leadership of our county’s largest companies was a unique and impactful opportunity as we learned from one another in a shared environment. As one of the largest employers in York County, WellSpan Health is proud to be part of this inaugural initiative.” 

For businesses taking that first step into growing their DEI effort, Bertram said that it’s vitally important to humbly ask questions. 

“Go in with a mindset of discovery instead of solutions and don’t be afraid to ask questions, hear truth,” he said. “The things that are unspoken need to be heard and if you aren’t a humble leader, you won’t be able to go in and make the change you seek.” 

Ioannis Pashakis
Ioannis Pashakis covers health care, the gig economy, cannabis and technology. Email him at [email protected].

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