Increasing diversity and inclusion on leadership teams and governing boards is more of a focus at healthcare organizations as the U.S. population shifts and companies look for new perspectives. While some progress has been made in this area, there is still room for improvement.

The share of black female board members at Fortune 500 companies increased 26.2 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to a study published by the Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte. But black women only represent 2.6 percent of total Fortune 500 board seats.

That’s why The Leverage Network, a Chicago-based organization, is dedicated to promoting the advancement of black executives in governance roles and increasing the representation of women and black executives in board positions in healthcare, including providers, pharma, payers, biotech and medical device manufacturers.

These efforts include a six-month fellowship program — developed with sponsoring partners EY Center for Board Matters and Heidrick & Struggles — for black executives seeking board opportunities in healthcare.

The first fellowship program graduates were 15 black executives, 25 percent of whom were placed in a board opportunity. Eleven black executives made up last year’s second class of fellowship graduates, and there are 14 black executives in this year’s fellowship class.