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- Building Our Own Table: Faith Eatman
Building Our Own Table: Faith Eatman
Meet the founder of Lifting As We Climb - Black Women in Healthcare Leadership Symposium 2024
When I put out the call to hear about more Black folx doing great things for our community, Faith popped into my LinkedIn feed. I’m inspired by her vision to empower Black women as healthcare leaders, and I hope you will be, too. Please meet Faith, and learn about her upcoming symposium…
Faith, tell me briefly about your background prior to setting up Lifting As We Climb - Black Women in Healthcare Leadership Symposium 2024
Growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, with a pastor for a dad, my parents always made sure we knew about our history. They both lived through the Jim Crow Era in North Carolina and made it their mission to teach us about racism and the importance of standing up against it. They also made sure we took pride in our Blackness and understood the value of giving back to our community.
As a kid, my mom said I was always taking care of everyone on the block, so she thought I'd become a doctor or a nurse. But to be honest, I can't stand blood and guts! That's why I ended up in health administration. It connected with my nurturing side and my desire to help others (sans blood and guts).
Throughout my career, I've been all about process improvement and change management in healthcare. I love pushing people to think differently and giving them the tools to solve the problems they face. In every job I had, I've also made it a point to serve my community and contribute to DEI efforts outside of my main role.
After George Floyd's murder, I knew I had to step up and do more. I started brainstorming ways to use my skills to make a real impact on health equity. As a Black woman who's been in healthcare my entire career, I've seen firsthand the challenges we face within the system, whether it's about quality, outcomes, representation in clinical and leadership spaces, or our experiences at work. I'm a strong believer in purpose, destiny, and calling, and I felt like I was in healthcare for a reason at this crucial time. I decided that if I'm using my expertise to help others, then I have a responsibility to help my sisters too. And that's how this initiative was born.
Give me the elevator pitch for Lifting As We Climb
The Lifting As We Climb - Black Women in Healthcare Leadership Symposium 2024 is a dynamic, one-day virtual event that seeks to embolden and inspire Black women in healthcare to take their rightful place as leaders in healthcare. Our symposium is not just another conference, it's a transformative experience designed to elevate Black women's voices, expand their networks, and provide them with the tools they need to excel in leadership positions. Through this event, we aim to catalyze a movement that drives real change in healthcare equity for Black women, one that will uplift and embolden Black women in healthcare for generations to come.
And in more detail?
For centuries, Black women have been passionate advocates for justice in America. From Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth to Mary Church Terrell and Shirley Chisholm, Black women have tirelessly worked to create lasting change in their communities. Healthcare pioneers like Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first Black woman to receive a medical degree in 1864, are examples of this unrelenting spirit.
However, the healthcare system continues to present significant challenges for Black women. Black women are having vastly different experiences than their white counterparts, despite efforts to educate and increase healthcare access. This is a gross injustice perpetuated by the fact that white men hold over 80% of C-Suite positions in healthcare, with 96% of women in these positions being white. The system was designed to keep us down, and it's taking a toll on our lives figuratively and literally.
We're done playing by the rules of a game we can't win. We want to change the game. Our foremothers left us a blueprint for winning, and it's embedded in our DNA. By collectively leveraging our leadership capabilities, advocacy, innovation, agility, and ingenuity, we aim to elevate ourselves first and lift as we climb. That's why we've created the Lifting As We Climb - Black Women in Healthcare Leadership Symposium 2024, a one-day virtual gathering for early and mid-career Black women in healthcare roles who aspire to advance to leadership positions and improve health equity for Black women. We want to them leave the conference with ALL the audacity to claim their position as leaders in healthcare.
We are committed to creating an affirming environment for attendees to increase exposure to Black women executive leaders, learn strategies for career elevation and pathways to executive-level leadership, understand how to leverage and amplify their unique perspectives as Black women, expand their professional network of Black women leaders with shared experiences, and foster a community of support and empowerment for Black women in leadership. The symposium will bring together an exceptional lineup of speakers, panelists, and thought leaders from various healthcare sectors who are all Black women.
What inequity were you trying to address, and why is this important?
In organizing the Lifting as We Climb - Black Women in Healthcare Leadership Symposium 2024, we are addressing the systemic inequity and underrepresentation of Black women in healthcare leadership positions, as well as the disparities in healthcare experiences, quality, and outcomes we face.
It is a struggle for us to survive in the healthcare system whether it is as patients or leaders. We often feel invisible to providers and aren't visible in top healthcare roles, whether it's practice, policy, or research. The mold for leadership wasn't designed for us, so fitting in is impossible. Discrimination, toxicity, and bullying in the workplace contribute to the disparities in our health quality and outcomes. It is a vicious cycle. And at the root of all of this is systemic racism and it is killing us both literally and figuratively.
How’s it going? What has the response been?
It's going incredibly well! The response from fellow Black women healthcare professionals has been overwhelmingly positive and deeply validating for me. Every Black woman I talk to about this event is like "Yes!! We NEED this" So I'm very excited to see it take shape and can't wait to witness the movement it will create.
Right now we are just getting the word out, firming up our speakers and finalizing the date which will be in February 2024. Our target to announce the date, speakers, agenda and all the things is July 2023. We are also looking for organizations/people who align with our mission to sponsor the event.
In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?
This is such a difficult question, and my answer varies from day to day. Right now, the progress in dismantling systemic racism is painfully slow. There are still people claiming racism doesn't exist, and others saying "it's a marathon, not a sprint" – but this marathon feels never-ending, and I'm tired of running. So, it's tough for me to envision a racism-free world in the near future.
I wish I could picture my 5-year-old son having a different experience as a Black boy compared to his grandfather, who grew up during the Jim Crow era. While some things have changed, many haven't, and that leaves me conflicted.
Folx, this is such an important initiative. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading,
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