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Healthcare leadership’s diversity paradox

Reginald Silver (Business Information Systems and Operations Management, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 6 February 2017




The purpose of this research study was to obtain healthcare executives’ perspectives on diversity in executive healthcare leadership. The study focused on identifying perspectives about diversity and its potential impact on the access of healthcare services by people of color. The study also identified perspectives about factors that influence the attainment of executive healthcare roles by people of color.


A convenience sample of healthcare executives was obtained. The executives identified themselves as belonging to one of two subgroups, White healthcare executives or executives of color. Participants were interviewed telephonically in a semi-structured format. The interviews were transcribed and entered into a qualitative software application. The data were codified and important themes were identified.


The majority of the study participants perceive that diversity of the executive healthcare leadership team is important. There were differences in perspective among the subgroups as it relates to solutions to improve access to healthcare by people of color. There were also differences in perspective among the subgroups, as it relates to explaining the underrepresentation of people of color in executive healthcare leadership roles.

Research limitations/implications

This research effort benefited from the subject matter expertise of 24 healthcare executives from two states. Expansion of the number of survey participants and broadening the geographical spread of where participants were located may have yielded more convergence and/or more divergence in perspectives about key topics.

Practical implications

The findings from this research study serve to add to the existing body of literature on diversity in executive healthcare leadership. The findings expand on the importance of key elements in contemporary literature such as diversity, cultural competency and perspectives about the need for representation of people of color in leadership roles that guide healthcare policy and access. This study connects contemporary literature to perspectives of executives in the field and offers practical solutions to improving the representation of people of color in executive healthcare leadership roles.

Social implications

The recommendations offered as a result of this research effort serve to create awareness of the challenges that people of color face in career attainment. Although the process of increasing the representation of people of color in executive healthcare leadership will be a complex task that will involve a number of players over the course of several years, this study serves to provide a practical roadmap with actionable tactics that can be deployed.


This paper is an extension of the work that was done by the author during the course of completing the program requirements for the author’s doctoral program. The findings were previously discussed in the author’s dissertation. The value of these findings is significant because they validate some of the topics in contemporary literature with the perspectives of practicing healthcare executives. This study is also unique from other studies in that it offers a long-term plan to increase the representation of people of color in executive roles by creating an early disposition toward executive level roles and identifies a number of practical steps toward that end.



Silver, R. (2017), "Healthcare leadership’s diversity paradox", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 68-75.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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