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Number of Senior Living Operators With DEI Programs Grows, But ‘More Work Ahead’

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More owners and operators of senior living communities are “leaning in” to programs on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging than in previous years – but there is still lots for the industry to do in that regard.

For one, senior living companies must “move beyond the focus of just recruiting diverse talent.”

That’s according to a new survey, which found that there has been a “significant increase” in the number of senior living companies with DEIB programs. The survey – conducted by Ferguson Partners and sponsored by the DEIB Coalition in partnership with Argentum, American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) and National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care (NIC) – included responses from 60 companies.

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In the same survey one year prior, 44 companies responded and reported having a DEIB program. The most recent survey represents a 36% increase in the number of companies offering such programs.

Argentum President and CEO James Balda said there is “more work ahead” with regard to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in senior living. He highlighted the industry’s increased adoption of companies taking on DEIB efforts from 27% participation to 40%. To Balda, this indicates a “growing recognition within the industry of the importance and positive impact of promoting DEIB for residents and. workers.

The 2023 survey found that 52% of respondents have implemented a formal DEIB committee responsible for curating DEIB efforts, with 90% of respondents focusing on gender, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation and aspects of diversity.

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Senior living industry has long struggled with race and gender. And despite the progress in offering DEI programs, the most recent survey shows that the industry still has a ways to go in fostering belonging and inclusiveness among all.

Almost three-quarters of senior living professionals are women, while 27% are men. But despite that, only about half of executive management positions in senior living were held by women, according to the survey.

Almost half of all senior living employees (47%) are people of color. Even so, people of color make up just 18% of senior-level employees, and 14% of executive management. Similarly, people of color make up 55% of all community staff, but represent just a quarter of community management. That is not to mention that white employees still hold “well over 80%” of positions at the executive level.

“There’s work to be done at the mid-management level, with women of color departing at a much higher rate (twice the rate of promotion) than they are promoted and hired,” the survey’s authors wrote. “There is an opportunity to understand why retention is suffering for this underrepresented group.”

While 40% of companies that participated said they had a DEIB program, 37% said they did not have a formal program in place while 23% did not have a DEIB program in any form.

Though many companies talk about holistic DEI efforts taking into account the needs and wants of all employees, CEOs are still largely driving the decision-making process. About a third of respondents, 33%, said that their CEO leads decisions on DEIB, followed by the C-suite (24%) and human resources (17%). Just 13% said their decisions were made by a DEIB team or committee.

“Organizations should establish a holistic vision for what they are trying to achieve through their DEIB efforts,” the survey’s authors wrote. “It is time to move beyond the focus of just recruiting diverse talent. Companies must foster inclusive work environments that provide a sense of belonging, so that they can retain the talent that they work hard to attract.”

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