CEO Talent Champion: Dan Burton, Health Catalyst

An interview on driving diversity and pay equity

Executive leaders can improve their diversity and pay-equity outcomes by learning how Health Catalyst successfully aligned values and actions while reaching out to employees who may have been uncomfortable with change.

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Q&A With Dan Burton

Dan Burton serves as CEO of Health Catalyst, a healthcare data warehousing and analytics company. He became involved with Health Catalyst when it was a three-person startup. Burton is also the co-founder of HB Ventures, the first outside equity holder in Health Catalyst. Prior to Health Catalyst and HB Ventures, Burton led the Corporate Strategy Group at Micron Technology. He also spent eight years with Hewlett-Packard in strategy and marketing management roles. Before joining HP he was an associate consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, where he advised healthcare systems and technology companies. Burton holds an MBA with high distinction from Harvard University, where he was elected a George F. Baker Scholar, and a BS in economics, magna cum laude, from BYU.

At Health Catalyst, one of our core operating principles is respect. We recognize the immeasurable value of every individual, and we strive to live by this every day. Because of the deep commitment we have to this principle, it was difficult for us to face the fact that we were falling short in this way regarding our talent diversity. We were faced with a realization that there were some disparities resulting in a gender pay gap and that our leadership team wasn’t as diverse as it should be. This was troubling and difficult to recognize, but also a great opportunity to improve that we took to heart.

Living by our core values, we consistently have worked to make Health Catalyst an inclusive and supportive environment where all our team members feel valued and can thrive, but realized we needed to double-up these efforts externally in the recruitment process. As we add leadership team member roles, we began making a point to be intentional about ensuring a diverse candidate pool with diverse perspectives. 

After making these areas a focus for us, we achieved pay parity in 2020 — it’s an ongoing process but we are encouraged by and committed to this progress. We also went from being a leadership team made up of almost exclusively white males to where we are today, with women making up 42% of our executive leadership team and 15% of our executive leadership positions filled by people of color. In addition to this, our most recent employee engagement survey showed female engagement scores have now surpassed that of their male colleagues for the first time this year. 

When facing an area you can improve, I would always encourage a leader to be humble and data driven. Make it a point to have a better understanding of the benefits of diversity. When being humble, we recognize there is still so much we can learn. Do the research, look at the data, look at the results of companies, but also remember to keep your team members’ experiences and immeasurable value at the center of these new learnings. 


Remember that support comes from the top. A company can’t kick off any type of initiative without the CEO, CPO or other members of executive leadership fully embracing it. Your support for change at your organization is the key catalyst in making a true difference and building a more inclusive, supportive, safe work environment and culture for your team members. 

Be courageous. Because of this impact, you need to be willing to make the decisions that will help create the best outcomes. Most importantly, remember we’re not perfect and never will be, but we can always try our best today and resolve to continue to make improvements going forward.


One idea that we needed to clearly depict to those who may have felt uncomfortable about the changes we were making was that diversity benefits everyone. Business outcomes improve with increased diversity. Equally balancing the perspectives and being diplomatic and inclusive of all team members, regardless of background, was better for our company and its culture, and was ultimately the right thing to do. To abide by our principles of respect while incorporating the fact that we don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives, we had to make a concerted effort to have the discussions that would turn our grand ideas into tangible results for our team members. 

As change can be uncomfortable, we had some who may have benefited from the status quo thinking we went too far on the pendulum swing. This provided a great opportunity to have a discussion. We encouraged our team members to truly embody our core values of improvement, ownership and transparency. And after some candid conversations, we were able to identify the need and the necessity of the steps we were taking.


Collaboration in hiring decisions is invaluable. Linda [our chief people officer] and I rely greatly on each other and the different perspectives we have among our team members when making talent decisions. We see tremendous merit in the different experiences members of our leadership and HR team offer when we look at addressing tough talent decisions. 


When we were first made aware that the compensation of women at Health Catalyst mirrored the disparity seen in national averages, the two of us came together to collaborate, understand and identify what will be the most meaningful and genuine solution. The perspective Linda brought to our partnership when we were addressing this disparity ultimately helped us get to pay parity in 2020. 


When approaching talent decisions regarding the composition of our board, we find it imperative to make sure we have a diverse pool of ideas and perspectives. We maintain this as a priority as we believe diverse ideas foster richer solutions. Boards tend to be more collaborative when there are more women and executives of different backgrounds filling the seats. We keep this in mind when filing those roles. 


When presenting talent-related company issues that require board member input, we always present topics to them in the spirit of collaboration. We begin with this intention because by including different perspectives when considering making changes that would affect all or some team members — from recruiting, to compensation, to other talent-related decisions — we know we will come up with a more robust, well-rounded solution. 

We make it a priority to hear all board members’ thoughts on difficult decisions before taking next steps. 


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