MaineHealth in Portland says it is the state’s largest employer, and its woke footprint is equally prominent.
The organization has a robust Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (ODEI) that has been keeping employees very busy with endless messaging, training, and activities related to its commitment of “advancing DEI across our system.” As noted in the 2022-2026 DEI Strategic Plan, one of MaineHealth’s objectives is to advance DEI education for leadership and all care team members, and there are several methods in place for accomplishing that goal.
These actions have been taking place at MaineHealth since August 2020, when Ryan Polly, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, addressed the organization’s “care team members” in an email signed by 24 company executives. This message states the need for MaineHealth to take “a closer look at our own shortcomings” regarding DEI efforts within the organization.
To establish “lasting cultural change” across the system, the executive team promised to:
- Develop “a formal DEI vision, strategy, and program”
- Recruit a system leader for the DEI team
- Establish a sub-committee of the Board of Trustees’ Governance Committee to oversee the implementation of the DEI plan
- Create strategies to Identify ad minimize” implicit bias in recruitment and hiring practices
- Formation of a DEI Council to advise MaineHealth leadership on ways “to eliminate disparities in the care we provide”
- Expand system-wide DEI education programs to include the Board of Trustees
- Partner with community-based organizations to “add our resources and our voice” to the advancement of DEI principles and addressing health disparities
The tide of woke rhetoric has continued ever since. In another communication, Polly provided employees with the MaineHealth Inclusive Language Guide for employees “who want to be supportive but feel confused about the [ever-changing] language landscape.” In this guide, users are advised to avoid terms like “mom and dad” and “father and mother” in favor of “parents, adults, family” to prevent the assumption of a “heteronormative family structure.” It also offers a list of “commonly used pronouns” for gender identity such as “Xe/Xem/Xyrs/Xyrself.”
In “Understanding Gender Identity & Pronouns,” employees can consult The Gender Unicorn if they still have questions about gender identities that are outside “the binary ends of the spectrum,” and have access to instructions on adding pronouns to their electronic profiles.
But the most troubling efforts promoted at MaineHealth are the creation of employee groups that are based on race/ethnicity and sexual orientation/gender identity. In an edition of the “Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion” newsletter, Polly introduced “Dream Sessions,” which were reported to be “open to all interested care team members.” However, Polly noted that some of the sessions were for “targeted groups;” specifically, BIPOC and LGBTQ+.
These groups are part of the “DEI at Work” initiative. DEI at Work is the ODEI’s strategy to involve MaineHealth employees in various DEI-related activities and trainings. For example, the “DEI Ambassador” program creates liaisons between the ODEI and local units within the system to help lead the cause and bring it into practice. In addition to Becoming a DEI Ambassador, “care team members” also have access to DEI education courses such as Effective Allyship in the Workplace; The Trans Patient Experience; Understanding Implicit Bias; and Microaggressions and Inclusive Communication. It also involves the current “Care Team Member Networks” (CTMN), which continue to endorse identity politics and segregation at MaineHealth. The BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) CTMN “promotes the success” of patients, staff, and leaders who belong to this group. The goal of the LGBTQ+ CTMN is to “foster an environment inclusive of the LGBTQ+ experience” at MaineHealth.
Why does this major health system need a constant stream of woke messaging to its employees? Importantly, why does it promote employee groups that separate them according to race and sex? Given Maine’s demographics, this entire narrative appears to be more performative in nature rather than producing real changes in health outcomes in the state’s residents. If the objective is to make everyone feel “welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate,” MaineHealth must reconsider its methods and messaging.
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