Tracee Ellis Ross Teams Up For Time's Up With Her Aunt, Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee
Support for NPR and the following message. Come from gusto providing payroll benefits and HR services for small businesses. Gusto serves more than sixty thousand businesses nationwide with full service payroll HR, tools and health insurance at gusto dot com slash NPR. This is one A. I'm Joshua Johnson. In Washington America has embraced me too. And now that movement has sparked another rallying cry time's up. It's an initiative launched in response to allegations of rampant sexual harassment in Hollywood time's up established a thirteen million dollar legal defense fund to advocate punishing companies that tolerate sexual harassment it also addresses, pay inequity and other forms of discrimination. Now the initiative is broadening its scope beyond Hollywood to healthcare. Let's discuss it with two of its most vocal advocates one is a doctor and the other plays one on TV joining us from the Walt Disney studios in Burbank. California is Tracy Ellis Ross. She plays Dr rainbow Johnson on the ABC sitcom blackish, she is a founding member of time's up, and she's on the advisory board of times up entertainment. Tracey welcome to one eight. Thank you for having me. And joining us from Detroit is Dr Barbara Ross Lee pioneer in osteopathic medicine and education. She is on the time's up healthcare advisory board, and yes, they are indeed related the doctor is both Tracy's aunt and the sister of Diana Ross. Dr Roslea, welcome. Thank you for having me knowing that time's up movement was announced last January at forced a very necessary conversation about sexual harassment and gender pay disparities in Hollywood, Tracy Ellis. Ross let me start with that before we broaden out to health care. How has that conversation? Ben going so far have there been any early successes? I think there's been a lot of early successes. I think the biggest is bringing the conversation to the forefront. It's an it's an old experience. But a newer conversation how the conversation is being had and the work that's being done to actually change systemically, and culturally what we are experiencing, and I think with time's up specifically the legal defense fund was formed to actually create financial and legal support for those people that are having those experiences and and also help support safer more. Equal work environments that change that imbalance across the board. And I think that's why it sort of expanded out further into other industries because this is not an industry specific situation. And it's not a. Sort of sensational experience. It's something that is baked into our society and culture that we are tempting to unpack and undue and change. Doctor Ross Lee, how did you get involved with the time's up healthcare initiative? Of course, I've been involved with the women's issues in healthcare both from a workforce perspective as well. As a patient care perspective for oh. Twenty five thirty years. And I was approached because, you know, this kind of the perfect time to get some visibility on the issue having been one of the very few minority and female physicians when I started in medicine it like your time's up. Let's all take this time to not wait for a solution. But become a part of the solution. And so I was very pleased to serve as an advisor. We'll to Lee what are some of the goals of times of. Healthcare. Well, the the goals are what you might expect and consistent and well aligned with the time's up the umbrella organizations goal number one it's to help develop a work for a work workplace that without harassment or abuse to provide opportunities and equity in and moving ahead in the healthcare industry. And of course, really since healthcare is such a large industry, making sure that we can try progress, and and make the system and all of the institutions organizations involved accountable for improving the worst workplace from a gender disparity. Perspective now dot to your something of a veteran and a pioneer in the field of osteopathic medicine as I understand it. You were the first black woman to lead a US medical school the Ohio University heritage college of osteopathic medicine. And you started out in medicine in the seventies. Give me a sense of what you encountered as not just a woman in that field. But a black woman in that field at that time. Can I can I pause to just say, oh, wow. I feel I feel very proud of my aunt, Tracy, Tracy. What makes you the most proud? Well, you know, I think it's such an interesting thing, I as an adult have moved into this place of advocacy, and really like, Bobby. I'm just going to call her that like on Bobby said, you know, I have been invested in the equity and equality of gender issues since I joined the workforce, and sort of came into my own experiences without an also saw the inequities that others were experiencing and the unsafe work environment that many express and tell stories about but also that you see but for me. Having a family member and family members that have been at the forefront of this work is the reminder that this is work, and that's been going on way longer than my own experience, and even my own life, and that we are still in a position where we're attempting to balance these scales and create safer work environments, and even help people to understand what gender equity even means. And what a quality means. I feel really proud that. I come from a family of strong intelligence, and and fair minded women and black women, and that my aunt is a woman that's been at the forefront of that in the healthcare industry is something that makes me feel very proud, even though I had no responsibility and all the work that she's done. I I just got to benefit I got to benefit from it. Yeah. I hear you, Tracy. I think that something that is echoed by. Quite a few people not just in the times up movement, but other movements about how grateful they are about work that was laid bef- that was done before them. And Dr I wonder if there are one or two particular things that you've seen that have changed since you got into the business for better or for worse. Well, at certainly the number of women in the healthcare workforce. Now is Jeff's astounding, I never would have believed that we could have grown so rapidly in the number of women and this certainly in the health professions and in medicine, but the issues are cultural and their deep and they're wide. And although the we have many women are still striving to get into power or leadership positions to affect the changes that need to be implemented in the in the environment that work at the workplace environment. So yeah, I've seen many much progress but much progress still is left to be. Made doctor give me an example of one of those change that needs to be implemented that perhaps one of your male colleagues well-meaning, though, they are might never think of that it might not occur to them that this is an area in which women in health care need, a little more support need to have something addressed it. Give me an example. There. There's some really quick and easy example. So one is compensation that women and the health care workforce. And particularly they move through leadership positions. They're not giving the same composition compensation or support a system that would allow them to excel and be successful. You could go on and on. I was gonna say that that's the same. I think that's across the board in all industries. And I think that's one of the reasons having these different areas pop up is so important because you start to see the similarities across the board and just to change your your language a little bit. Josh what you said where women need more support. And I don't know that it's about necessarily the words support. But instead changing people's understanding of what a quality means. And it's not it's it's specifically about equality not about women needing that support. It's about laying the foundation that has a different understanding of people should be paid. And compensated for the work that they do not based on the color of their skin their gender their age or anything you're paid for the work that you do. And I think putting women having inclusive and diverse leadership tables, actually, changes how that happens. They say that when women are in positions of power. And when there's a more equal diversity in those positions of power that it authentically creates safer work environments. And I think equity is part of that the pay equity is part of that I explained that. Well, will you did? I just want to make sure that I'm clear on what you're referring to Tracy because I think when some folks talk about for example, you know, addressing racism, though, say that they want to live in a society where people don't see race. They just see people. Are you referring to kind of a workforce where colleagues don't see gender? They just see doctors, and nurses or. No. And first of all, I don't think we're there yet. Sure. I think that's a utopian society. We would all like to live. And I think there's a lot of a lot that needs to happen until we achieve that that place. That's not where we are now in order to get to that place. There are systemic changes that need to occur and cultural different understandings of what that means what equal means. And. So no, I personally don't see the world is colorblind. I think the world is colorful. I don't see the world is genderless. I see the world as full of fluid kinds of gender. But how you present that in how you choose to do that is not actually the thing. That's in question here. It's about how we. Compensating people for the work that they do. And let me just expand on that. 'cause I don't I don't even I don't think it's a good thing to aspire to have a colorless neutral block society. I think the power particularly particularly in healthcare. The power is the diversity because that diversity brings a perspective and the perspective allows us to achieve excellent. Because we have everybody included excellence treating you know, kind of the fundamental human condition as part of healthcare will I do want. I do want to talk more about that. We have to pause for just a moment. But I do want to talk more about how we reached that point when we continue our conversation with Dr Barbara Ross Lee and Tracy Ellis Ross, I'm Joshua Johnson. And you're listening to one A from W AMU and NPR. This message comes from NPR sponsor Rossi's ralphie's is the everyday flat for life on the go. That comes in four fashionable styles for women, the flat, the point the loafer and the sneaker fund designs and patterns while still looking polished and professional with new colors launched every few weeks. Best of all RAF. These are made from recycled plastic water bottles and completely machine washable. So you can feel good about wearing them. Go to Rossi's dot com and enter code one a to get your flats and free shipping. We may be on the verge of another sexual revolution. And this one we tone to machines for companionship and sex. My main addicted is to be a perfect companion how artificial intelligence and robots are changing the landscape of love this week on hidden brain. This is one A. I'm Joshua Johnson. We're discussing the time's up initiative growing from entertainment into a new focus on healthcare with its advisory board member Dr Barbara Ross Lee, and with actor Tracy Ellis Ross who was a founding member of times up and on a member of the advisory board of times up entertainment, Tracy, you play rainbow Johnson on black ish. Dr Johnson is an anesthesiologist and the show has addressed sexual harassment and sexism that your character is faced on the job. Here's a brief clip with two examples of how this has been dealt with on blackish. Here's me there's Boone being, oh, it's actually Dr rainbow at I mean, Johnson, whatever on America. Did you over use me doctor hunting putting on a jump in here real quick though? But I got an excuse. I'm that good at waiting for the face. Remember your doctor to clips from the series blackish? I I wonder I'm pretty sure Tracy that the sitcom kind of hit those on the head fairly intentionally. Yeah. They were hit on the head intentionally. I think that was an episode where we were exploring some of those as sort of microaggressions that occur that are part of the larger spectrum of what sexism can look like in it. I mean in this situation the healthcare industry, I do want to say, you know, I play doctor on TV. And I think one of the things that is important about that as a black woman or playing a doctor through the face and being of a black woman that it starts to also change the image of what that looks like. And that's part of what assist in having young girls know that that's something. That's possible for them that there's a real future in that. And what it takes to be that kind of person. And in my career, I've been really really choice. About the kind of images that I portray and making sure that they sort of expanded idea of humanity that in particular areas have been very limited in the way that we are representatives black women in entertainment really has an actual impact in how. How we see ourselves. And what you see as possible. You just kind of reminded me of one of the comedy specials. The stand up specials that W Kamau bell did about a children's cartoon series called doc, Mick Stephen's now. Now, his little kind of mixed race daughter assumes that doctors are black women, and yeah that that he took her to a doctor and a white guy walked in. And she was like what the hell is this when someone please rid of this white man and give me a real doctor like it's kind of amazing how those perceptions can be shaped have you noticed that in terms of the feedback from the audience? Yes, I've noticed it from the feedback from the audience, but there's actual data that shows that culturally we influence policy it takes time. But entertainment, it's like it it tills the soil in terms of what we make space for in our consciousness. You don't always I don't believe that you always have to see it in order to know that it's possible. I think my aunt, and my mom are examples of women who did things that were uncharted that they were leaders of a pack and went down roads in their careers and lives, and the choices that they made without having the example of other women that had done that before let alone other women on television, and in film and music that had done the things that they had done. They somehow made those choices from I don't know what space. That's a question. I would have front, Bobby. I often ask my mom that where did you find the courage to make some of those choices that you made because I know in the world that I live in today with the amount of diversity that we do see and the courage that we see from women even with the platform of times up, and you know, the career that I have I still I get nervous sometimes about making choices that I know. Oh are not the norm that push up against the cultural norm. And so I do know the power of the image. I know the power of the roles that I portray on television, and in entertainment, and I think there there's actual factual data that it makes a difference. And I think there's also personal data for people in terms of like the example from Camilla Belle of his daughter in knowing what's possible. And what what choices there are? You know, it was very limited back in the day. Dr Roche Lee would about you your perspective in terms of just the visibility of not only women in healthcare professions, but women of color in healthcare professions, and the impact that has of course, then in medicine a long time now, and I'd like to say that it has disappeared. I can still walk in the room and somebody will say, where's the doctor? You know, and although that is changing it's changing much more slowly for minority females than for the. The majority female population. I'm sorry. I just wanna make sure just so we're clear when they say, where's the doctor? There presuming that you are like the nurse or the nurse the cleaning staff for some. Where's where's the food? You know? And and and if you're not you have a better chance of even. Yeah. I have examples of women who were on an airplane when there was a medical emergency and not believing that this woman who was trying to assist was up female physician doctor, you know. So I, yeah, it's still exist and the sad party is. And I think the real challenge for us is that we still have the biases in along with those viruses. Come allot of a sump shins and marginalized expectations if they believe your doctor. They'll think you're really good doctor or if they think you're a health professional. It's just like that you you're not the best because of who you are and not necessarily what to do. And this. It's it really is a cultural phenomena. It is changing that can see change. It still has a long way to go. And that's why times up is. So very important just this juncture because it's like, we're reaching that tipping point. And we can make it happen. Dr Ross Leded that put more pressure on you to perform when you were coming up in medicine being like, the one of the few black women in your space. I can only imagine what kind of an obligation that can create for you. Now that you're in now that you are, you know, at the table to not just do your job. But to do it, you know to get an a plus plus on everything you do. I think part of what what health to me was I didn't focus on the environment that I was in my motivation came from. I wanted to be the best that I could be to be able to provide health care services for the populations that I would say. Serve. So I will I could I could get into this little cocoon of mine, and it didn't I had to know that to myself for myself that I was the best that I could possibly be because that best had an impact on the quality of care that I could deliver to the populations that I wanted to serve yet. Can can I answer? Can I answer that same question though? Because I and I think also he, you know, my aunt is since saving lives and actually offering care to individuals, I'm sharing entertainment and making people laugh and opening hearts in a very different way. But I have felt a very big sense of responsibility boasts in how I carry myself, the choices that I make and also what I fight for you know, and knowing that because of the privilege that my both my legacy has offered me. My education has offered. Me. And now my career has offered me that I actually not only pay it forward. But actually use my vantage point to see what is not working. What is not correct? And use my voice in that way. And actually, I mean if I even think of my own experience in fighting for appropriate pay at the juncture that I'm in in my career, and how that moment became public. And that even in the public -ness of that moment, I felt it was an opportunity to utilize the platform that I had to open up the doors about that conversation, and what pay equity actually means and also shine not shine the light. But lift up those other areas that are all dealing with pay equity. It's not just an entertainment it's across the board. So I just I have felt a big sense of responsible. Ability in the position that I'm in. And I think that has to do with the platform that I have. And I know I mean, I just to say I also feel like as a person of color part of what you are raised with is the idea that you have to be better. You have to be the best in order to move forward. Because it the because of the inequity that exists, plus you're living in kind of a hostile environment. Or you're trying to excel in a house hostile environment. And I learned early on which is something I tried to change for the students that I engage with up in my current positions. But I learned very on that I could not trust the environment to give me appropriate feedback. And whether I was good not good killed improve. I had to set those standards for myself because there were no role models out there that could say, hey, you can do this better. And it was so. So you live in a world of sumptuous about what you're capable of and their expectations of the environment in healthcare were so low that if I were to just the spire to what they expect it I would be mediocre side to set my own standards, nor time we know limited. And I there's a few more things. I'd I know there's times I know you do, but I have to cut you off again. I'm sorry. I. I have I have to connect. I have to connect dot here. So I was raised in a family of extraordinarily strong women. I have three amazing aunts. I had bobby's mom, my grandmother was incredible. But what I just heard from? My aunt is something that I've never heard our take you through her or my mother, but is exactly what I was raised with. So I've internalized at and my standard of excellence is built on my idea of excellence and not how I'm seen. And that's an extraordinary example and lesson for everybody. And I just wanted to point that out because that was amazing. I'm Bobby kind of brought a little tear to my. I just want to say that. Okay. What was your question? John. Like what coach? I will say just as a having a family reunion. There's little. Reoun? It doesn't bother me bid reunion. I will say though, Tracy just as a sidebar before we keep going when I first saw you on like, girlfriends or blackish. I was like, she is awesome. And then later, I found out who your mother was. And I was like, oh, well, okay. That makes sense. So I I come I come from a stock of great ladies. It's no it's no accident. I became a powerful woman who uses her voice. And indeed you did. Indeed. You did let me ask you on the patient side, though, about the intersection of Hollywood and healthcare one might presume, Tracy that if you're working in film and TV at a certain level, you are way more likely to get awesome healthcare white glove treatment, certainly compared to the everyday person has that been your experience as it relates to gender, parody gender, equity treatment and healthcare. I obviously I have a great union that that serves me, well, but I will say this. When you talk about patient care, there is real. Real again, data about how black women women of color, and our pain is responded to and I'm sure I'm Bobby can speak way more to this. But in terms of patient care, and how the pain of women of color is listened to and responded to in the healthcare system. I think that's an area of inequity that we are working on and that's cultural to me. Well, and I like the what you brought up Tracy in Dr Leo, I was actually Dr Ross Leo was actually just going to ask you about pain management because there have been studies that show that the way that doctors treat black women as it relates to assessing and managing their pain. Yeah. Are very different than the way. They treat white women who express the pain that they're going through for whatever medical condition and black men as well. All right. It's it's it is a cultural thing, and it has a lot to do with how we perceive race ethnicity in this country. Yeah. We are speaking with actor, Tracy Ellis Ross and her aunt Dr Barbara Ross Lee more with them in just a moment. Stick lips. This message comes from NPR sponsor ADT, America's trusted home security company can help protect you against the break ins fires and carbon monoxide twenty four seven emergency response when you needed most more at ADT dot com. If you love this show, then check out life kit tools to help you get it together. Learn everything from how to invest your money to how to make time for exercise and have fun while you're doing it. Check it out in apple podcasts or NPR dot org slash life kit back now to our conversation on equity in health care with Dr Barbara Ross Lee and her niece actor, Tracy Ellis Ross. There's also been Dr Rosslea a great deal of talk in the last few years about black women and mortality, you know, Serena Williams and beyond say have been vocal about the dangerous. They face during childbirth and studies show that black women are three to four times more likely been white women to die. From pregnancy related complications. Now, I'm sure there is a myriad of factors for that. But in the context of something like times of healthcare in terms of what you can do internally inside the system in what ways might you be able to to address that. Fundamentally, if you have a workforce that is culturally sensitive that if treats women in in a way that's equitable that translates to patient care, and it would. And if you don't have a workforce, which is what time's up is aiming and focusing on. If you don't have that workforce. You cannot address those issues that are those disparities that are born by racial and ethnic populations. You just can't do it. And so you gotta start here in order to to get there. And yes, by the way, many of the statistics related to maternal and child, health and and fetal or infant mortality, those percentages haven't changed much since slavery, which still two and a half times more likely for. Our children of color to die or for maternal deaths in this day and age there should never be a maternal death. Clearly, the time's up initiative has brought a lot of vocal and powerful and influential women to the forefront to say things have got to change, and they are going to change one question. I hear a lot from men is whether you is there's any role for us. So for the men who feel supportive of times up of metoo of these kinds of movements. What would you ask them to do or do you just need us to to kind of get out of the way tracing? Well, I think accountability is a real thing. And I also think this is a time for men to listen and ask themselves some real questions. There's a lot to learn. And there's a lot of unlearn thing to do. I think there are some wonderful male allies. But if you're going to call yourself an ally. Why I think there's a questions to ask yourself? What does that mean? And maybe there's a lot of listening to do. But we're attempting to create an envision a world that has not yet existed. So that requires a lot of I think on men's part sitting back for a moment and listening undocked, I'll give you the last word actually, I would say three things and two of those Tracy's already said listening is really important number two is accountability. In whatever position. They hold power that they could make a difference and add their voice to the discussion because for us to just do it for us with us is not going to make the kind of policy changes that we absolutely need to to make an order for this for us to be a part of the solution. Dr Barbara Rosslea with the advisory board of times of healthcare. Doctor thanks for talking to us. Thank you very much and. Tracy Ellis Ross who plays Dr rainbow Johnson on the ABC sitcom blackish a founding member of times up and a member of the advisory board of times up entertainment, Tracy. It's been a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you so much. This was a a real treat for me. This conversation was produced by statia Brown and edited by Miranda full more to learn more about them and the rest of our team. Visit the one eight dot org slash staff. And speaking of our staff would you like to join our staff for the summer because one a is hiring a summer intern. And yes, this is a paid, internship, but candidates have to apply by April eighteenth. So if you want to sign up to be our summer, intern you'll find all the information online at W A M, U dot org slash internships. This program comes to you from W AMU part of American University. In Washington distributed by NPR. Until we meet again, I'm Joshua Johnson. Thanks for listening. This is one A. This message comes from NPR sponsor Capital One offering a variety of credit card options with features for a range of customers from foodies to travelers Capital One what's in your wallet credit approval required capital. One Bank USA NA.