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Data-Driven DEI™ Case Study: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

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Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, an international leader in improving child health located in Cincinnati, Ohio, has a deep, long-standing commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Dedicated to improving the health and life quality of all children, the organization wanted every employee, patient, family, and visitor to feel welcome and safe. While that approach served them well for many years, an overarching framework, intentional strategies, and accountability for success did not always guide that work. Once they added a DEI framework and adopted a data‑driven approach to DEI, they started to see impressive results.

Visael “Bobby” Rodriguez, vice president of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Relations, joined the organization in 2020 and was charged with creating a more comprehensive, evidence-based DEI strategy that was agile and evolutionary. His first step was to assess what was already working and where Cincinnati Children’s could improve. His team conducted a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis and “pulse check” surveys to identify development opportunities in real time. Through these activities, they learned:

  • DEI was often approached reactively.

  • Diversity data was not always used effectively or shared transparently.

  • Not all areas within the hospital were welcoming spaces for all employees.

  • Management — from middle management to the executive level — was not aligned on and accountable for DEI.

  • There was no comprehensive, systemic review of policies through a DEI lens.

  • DEI initiatives needed additional people and financial resources.

A Data-Driven Strategy

To address these issues, Cincinnati Children’s DEI team and executive team drafted a comprehensive DEI strategic plan that was officially approved, and endorsed by their board of trustees, in early 2021. The plan prioritizes four initiatives and focus areas that align with organizational goals:

  • People — Cultivating diverse talent and fostering a welcoming environment for all. Focus areas include talent acquisition, talent development and retention, inclusion and belonging, and data and knowledge.

  • Cultural Competence — Building a supportive environment and skills to effectively interact with and connect people of all backgrounds. Focus areas include capabilities and environment and infrastructure.

  • Equity & Health Excellence — Co-creating solutions to achieve equitable outcomes by understanding individual and population needs, barriers and assets. Focus areas include healthcare and equity, safe and supported families, and employee equity.

  • Community & Neighbors — Working alongside—and as part of—the community to advance the health and well-being of our region. Focus areas include community giving, community outreach, supplier diversity and multicultural communication.


These initiatives served as the DEI strategy framework. Within each initiative, every focus area has its own objective, action steps, measurable goals, KPIs (key performance indicators) and milestones to track progress. Many of the goals specifically address the opportunities uncovered during the SWOT analysis. Moreover, all the related measures are evidence based, quantifiable, culture forward, transparent, validated, valuable and impactful. This strong measurement component helps Cincinnati Children’s monitor improvement, identify opportunities, address any gaps, assign resources where needed and make data-informed decisions along the way.

Then in order to track progress, the team created a detailed scorecard addressing more than 90 metrics every quarter across the organization. Under the People initiative alone, they track racial, ethnicity and gender data for their overall population, the executive team, directors and senior managers, first- and mid-level managers, the board of trustees, as well as specialized employee populations including physicians, registered nurses, residents, clinical fellows, research fellows, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, division directors, faculty and others. They also track promotions and promotion odds for people of color and female employees, as well as turnover odds for the same populations. In addition, Cincinnati Children’s implemented an executive incentive program for leaders that ties a portion of their compensation to specific organizational diversity performance goals.

These metrics represent just a small portion of the total data measurement at Cincinnati Children’s. This detailed tracking helps the team identify trends and issues early, so they always have an eye on how their efforts are working. 

Data Transparency

Cincinnati Children’s decided early on that sharing this data would be a catalyst for success. Data transparency emphasizes the organization’s strong commitment to DEI and provides key stakeholders with the information they need to drive DEI programs forward. It also helps ensure everyone in the organization is working toward the same goals.

Many departments ended up creating their own area-specific DEI goals that align with and support the overarching strategy. That helped the organization infuse DEI in everything they do. Cincinnati Children’s even tasked all nine of its Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) with creating their own strategic plans, complete with metrics that align their objectives with the organization’s comprehensive DEI plan. “We believe ERGs should not only provide allyship, but also a meaningful contribution to career/leadership development and cross-cultural interaction. They’re also vital to advancing the principles of DEI in general,” said Rodriguez.

In time, Cincinnati Children’s took the next bold step of sharing DEI data publicly with employees, patients, and the community. In 2022, they created an online dashboard to share progress, and later in 2022, they published their first DEI annual report. “Sharing our DEI data throughout the organization and with the public was an important milestone for us,” said Nerissa Morris, senior vice president & chief human resources and diversity officer. “Data transparency drives accountability and results. It demonstrates how important DEI is to our organization and allows us to celebrate our achievements along the way.”


Cincinnati Children’s has much to celebrate because their data-driven efforts are clearly paying off. As evidenced in their DEI annual report, in two short years, the organization reported positive gains in its four areas of focus.

  • People — From fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2022, Cincinnati Children’s saw an increase in the number of women and people of color (PoC) in many areas:​

  • Overall representation of people of color from 21.4% to 22.5%

  • Female representation among executives and senior managers from 36.4% to 44.5%

  • PoC representation among first- and mid-level managers from 10.0% to 12.9%

  • PoC representation among nurses from 7.1% to 7.4%

  • Moreover, leadership positions held by people of color increased from 15.9% in 2020 to 19.2% in 2022.

  • Cultural Competence — Goals in this area included implementing cultural competency training for all employees. In 2021, they introduced Better Together training to ensure a shared understanding of what DEI means for everyone at Cincinnati Children’s. The self-directed online course focuses largely on identifying and confronting unconscious biases and promoting inclusion throughout the organization. They achieved a 100% completion rate for this important training in the first nine weeks. Now they offer the same course monthly to new hires and track participation to ensure everyone—from employees to the board of directors—completes it.

  • Equity & Health Excellence — Cincinnati Children’s believes every child deserves equal access to quality care, fair treatment and excellent outcomes. To make that happen, they review outcomes by race, ethnicity, language and socioeconomic status so they can identify whether disparities exist and why. They also measure whether all families feel safe and supported when receiving care. Stratified patient satisfaction scores from fiscal year 2022 suggest that patients of different sociodemographic backgrounds are having a positive experience, with no significant differences in responses by ethnicity.

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  • Community & Neighbors — Cincinnati Children’s partners across the organization as well as with underserved and vulnerable communities, local organizations and civic leaders to advance child and community health. They set specific goals related to community outreach, community giving and supplier diversity, and made significant progress on each one.


In fiscal year 2021:

  • 17,000+ children and families were reached.

  • $425M+ was delivered in community benefit services.

  • 1,100+ employee volunteers were engaged.

  • Over $1.5M was raised for the community through employee giving campaigns with 5,500+ employee donors in 2021.


Note: The Community Outreach & Partnership data is measured from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021 (one year behind due to an audit).

In fiscal year 2022:

  • $76M was spent with diverse suppliers:

    • $29M+ with minority-owned businesses

    • $22M+ with women-owned businesses

    • $4M+ with veteran-owned businesses

  • 34% of overall contracts for their Critical Care Building project were with certified minority- and women-owned business enterprises, totaling $111 million.


While Cincinnati Children’s understands there’s more to do and still has big goals to tackle in their five‑year plan, they’re pleased with their progress to date. DEI commitment and engagement are stronger than ever, and employees and patient families are noticing a difference. The broader community is also recognizing their work and achievements. In 2023, Cincinnati Children’s was the third highest rated hospital on Forbes magazine’s list of America’s Best Large Employers and ranked in the top 10 overall. In addition, in 2022 they were one of only two pediatric hospitals to make the Top 100 “Best Places to Work” for Large Companies in the United States on Glassdoor and #37 on Forbes magazine’s list of America’s Best Employers for Diversity. That same year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) named them a top performer in its Healthcare Equality Index for LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality for the ninth year in a row.

Steve Davis, MD, MMM, president and chief executive officer, concludes, “Building and elevating a vibrant, culturally sensitive and inclusive environment for employees, patients and families must be intentional, and requires unwavering commitment at all levels. Just as we use data to drive quality improvement in the care we provide, we must also use that same scientific rigor to ensure all employees, patients and families feel valued, supported, and respected here and that every patient receives the best service and care regardless of who they are or where they come from.”

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