Gender diversity is good for any business – especially one centralized in taking care of others. In the last few years, healthcare shifted to an era of consumer-centric care – meaning clinicians, board members, and executives should reflect the community they serve. Leadership diversity allows hospitals to care for their patients accurately. In the end, patients benefit from having advocates who represent the entire community.
In all industries, there is an urgent need to recognize gender diversity as a critical component of organizational success. A study conducted by Rock Health showed that only 4% of healthcare organizations have a female CEO.1 A report from Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm, stated that it takes women about three-five years longer than men to reach CEO positions across different types of industries.2 While diversity in healthcare has improved tremendously, women still struggle to enter leadership roles.
Challenges Women Face in Healthcare Leadership
“While the healthcare industry tends to be progressive with technology, culturally it moves slower than other industries,” said Vice President Diane Nicholas.
Societal norms still play a significant role in healthcare leadership. Women are still perceived as nurturing forces, and some may feel that pursuing C-level positions can come off as selfish to their family and friends.
Males predominantly dominate C-suite positions in healthcare. Women who apply for C-level roles tend to chase traditional roles, such as chief nursing officer and chief of human resource officer. Or they choose to opt-out of leadership positions due to lack of critical skills.
“Women tend to cluster in administrative functions. It is unusual for female leaders to pursue C-level IT and financial roles. These roles require an understanding of analytics, which are prerequisite skills for roles women don’t apply to,” said Nicholas.
Studies show that women underestimate their abilities and leadership potential.
“Women need to take more risks and bet on themselves! Female professionals should apply for roles they want to pursue even if they don’t have all the skills required.” Said Nicholas.
Location and size are also a challenge for women leaders. The Rock Health study indicated that in the Midwest 3% of CEOs were women, in the South only 8% of females held the CEO title, and in the Northeast 12.5% of females were in CEO positions.1 Smaller health systems/hospitals are more likely to agree to female leaders versus larger healthcare organization. Larger hospital systems will depend on diversity and inclusion programs to boost the number of female leaders. No matter the strategy, whether its organizational programs or willing to take a chance on new leaders, hospitals need to have a clear path for employees to grow professionally.
Organizations continue to develop groups and networking opportunities for associates to join. One hospital that found success with organizational programs is Memorial Hermann. The organization launched a Women Leaders Group – dedicated to encouraging, inspiring, and engaging women within the hospital to grow their leadership roles. The former president and chief executive officer, Chuck Stokes said the Women Leaders Group is a vital component of the organization’s succession plan.3
Groups dedicated to women in leadership allows for significant benefits. It permits females to empower each other by equipping them with resources, insights, and strategies to advance their personal and professional excellence.
A women’s leaders group also creates mentorship relationships. Women are often judged on their achievements, technical abilities, and if their image and performance meet the expectations the organization has for female leaders. It is essential to have successful leaders pour into the younger generation.
Our parent company, Jackson Healthcare, also believes in the benefits of organizational programs. Jackson Healthcare offers a Women’s Network Group, with the purpose to bring women from all Jackson Healthcare companies to network and inspire to be leaders. The group organizes panel events, guest speaker luncheons, and networking opportunities for members to learn from one another.
Tyler & Company’s Marketing Manager Erika Grenda is on the leadership team for the Women’s Network Group.
“The Women’s Group Network at Jackson Healthcare gives women from all of our companies a chance to connect, learn and grow with each other,” said Grenda.
Not only does Jackson Healthcare provide a diverse selection of networking groups, the healthcare staffing, search, and technology company also offers a leadership program. It allows associates (both female and male) to improve their leadership skills. The leadership program taught Grenda valuable lessons.
“The program allowed me to feel more confident and prepared for crucial conversations. I feel comfortable in presenting my ideas and solutions adequately in critical situations. It helped shaped me as a leader,” said Grenda.
As a result, both programs allowed women from our family of companies to step into higher leadership roles.
Advice for Future Female Leaders
Women who want to be in executive roles are encouraged to pursue higher education. It allows them to broaden their network, brings new opportunities, insights and connections.
“It is extremely important to network. Whether you are looking for a job or not. Having a large network will help you in the long run. It also gives you ideas to implement in your organization. And when the time comes to look for new opportunities, it will help you find them more efficiently and smoothly. People in general tend to neglect networking – but it is a key factor,” said Nicholas.
Multiple studies indicate that organizations with gender-balanced leadership are more successful in their communities. However, the issue is that not enough women are wiling to take a risk and apply to critical C-suite roles. Women have come a long way in healthcare, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Work hard and take opportunities that come your way even if you don’t see how it fits into the big picture,” said Grenda.
Women who want to advance in their careers should work towards their goal and know that they will achieve it!