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We’re Still Working to Make IntraHealth the Antiracist Organization We Strive to Be

We have a long road ahead. These are some of the steps we’re taking to get us there.

In May of 2020, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black Americans—on top of generations of systemic oppression and trauma in the US—spurred us to take a good, hard look at ourselves, both as individuals and as an organization that’s committed to equality, equity, justice, and respect. And we found that IntraHealth International lacked important strategies, policies, and metrics related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We realized we had a long way to go to become the organization we strive to be.

Two years ago, I highlighted some of the steps we wanted to take to change our culture, not just to become a more antiracist organization but to address equity, diversity, and inclusion at all levels of the organization. This included diversifying our executive team and board of directors, investing more in the growth of our staff, and overhauling our policies and workplace culture.

We want to work every day to disrupt systemic racism and address inequity in our workplace and communities.

But that was just the beginning. Today, as we approach the two-year anniversary of George Floyd's death, I’m sharing the changes we’re making to be a more antiracist organization—one that doesn’t ignore the legacy of colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy in public health.

We want to work every day to disrupt systemic racism and address inequity in our workplace and communities.

We built EDI into our strategy

In 2021, we finalized a new five-year organizational strategy, one that builds greater equity into our organization and programs. Two of its pillars are transforming partnership models to drive local solutions for sustained health impact and improving the performance of our people, systems, and processes to drive results.

Explicitly incorporating these priorities into our work will strengthen our workplace culture and our programs around the world.

We grew and formalized our EDI Committee

In the spring of 2020, a group of IntraHealth employees began the equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) task force, which is now a fully formalized, chartered committee with 18 staff members (all volunteers) and several subcommittees, which each reflect specific priorities. To help us get started, we teamed up with Dr. Benjamin Reese, president of BenReese LLC, a global diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting firm based in Durham, North Carolina, who conducted an EDI assessment of IntraHealth and presented it to staff. This gave us all a shared understanding of where we’re on the right track and where we’re not. Now, Dr. Reese works with our EDI committee by providing expertise and guidance to help us take our next steps—including becoming a more transparent organization that doesn’t rely on a top-down, US-focused approach.

As the CEO and president of a global organization, I know how much power language holds, especially in global health. The words we use every day must convey respect and understanding. So the EDI committee is creating a glossary of terms for more respectful communication with colleagues and is instituting meeting norms and best practices to ensure everyone at the table feels safe. In addition to working on EDI in our US-based office, we’re also working with our technical experts and program teams to ensure equity is a pillar of our projects around the world.

We focused on our people & culture

Employee surveys during the pandemic made it clear that our staff need flexibility. I’ve urged all managers to accommodate their team members’ needs, including encouraging teams to use sick time for mental health and wellness days and ditching the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday for those who need something different.

We’ve found that tailored surveys have helped us gauge where our teams need help. We’ve just completed the first global employee engagement survey at IntraHealth, which will become a regular barometer for how staff feel about their workplace, and the EDI Committee just completed surveys about microaggressions in the office and employee resource groups to determine what kind of training and resources our teams need.

Because EDI leadership needs to come from the top, we knew we needed a more diverse board of directors and executive team. Since 2020, we’ve welcomed three new board members and four new executive team members who are committed to the changes IntraHealth is making. As members rotate off our board in the coming year, I’m committed to seeking out diverse new leaders—we want to be part of the solution to address the uneven power distribution among governing bodies at so many global health organizations.

We’ve invested more in staff education over the past two years, particularly conversations that allow us to learn and think about how we can do more and better in our own lives and in the workplace. Through a series of dialogue forums with our staff, the EDI committee has opened up conversations on maternal health racial disparities; Juneteenth; Pride Month; parallels between the Wilmington, North Carolina massacre in 1868 and the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol; racism against Asian-Americans; Latino/a/x community identity and current issues; and indigenous land and peoples.

We overhauled our systems and structures

Pay inequities are notorious in global health care. Women often make less than men in both health services and nonprofit settings, and when you account for race and ethnicity, that pay gap gets even wider. Global Health 50/50 reports that median earnings for male employees of global health organizations are 13.5% higher than for female employees. And in the United States, Black women are paid 61 cents for every dollar compared to white, non-Hispanic men. For Latina’s, it’s 53 cents for every dollar.

These numbers are personal to me. I’m a woman who leads a global health organization with diverse staff all over the world.

We need systems and structures that celebrate our diversity while safeguarding equitable compensation for all staff. So we regularly audit staff salaries to find out where we are falling short and implement equity adjustments based on our findings. Our human resources team developed a dashboard that’s accessible to all employees. It tracks how we promote and reward staff and provides a breakdown of positions based on gender and race. We’ve also published our salary scales for transparency.

To ensure we’re making progress, our EDI committee is working with our human resources team to institutionalize a biennial qualitative EDI staff survey and they’ve integrated EDI questions into job interviews for potential staff and incorporated EDI committee representatives into interview panels for those applying for director-level and above positions. Additionally, we’ve reviewed all our HR policies and procedures to ensure they are aligned and foster equity, diversity, and inclusion. And as of 2020, every US-based staff member in the organization includes at least one EDI-related goal in their annual performance goals—because no matter where we sit or what we do within the organization, there’s a role each of us can play to ensure greater equity, diversity, and inclusion, across all our practices.

We have a long way to go, but we’ve taken the first steps.

What’s next?

We still have a long way to go in these efforts, and the work will never truly be done. In the coming year, we’ll focus on:

  • How to make our salaries and promotion tracks more transparent for our current and potential staff.
  • Monitoring our EDI metrics to define and gauge progress year over year.
  • Growing our EDI committee and discussing how EDI values apply to our country offices.
  • Communicating our values on a global scale, in every country where we have an office.

I know that our work will never be over. But I’m proud of the time, commitment, and learning IntraHealth’s staff have put into making our organization the best it can be. We have a long way to go, but we’ve taken the first steps.


Join us!

We recognize the value of partnerships and have reached out to other organizations who are making similar changes. We joined CREED in Action and InterAction’s DEI Compact so we can learn from other organizations like ours and talk openly about the issues we face and potential solutions.