Even though healthcare organizations across the world have taken steps to diversify their C-suite and leadership roles, there is still a lot more work left to be done. As Regina Temple mentions, the representation of women in CEO roles in healthcare is still disproportionate to men. Even though women do represent a large population in the healthcare workforce, they make up a small percentage of CEOs in health systems and health insurance groups.
Regina Temple talks about women leadership in healthcare
Women are often the key healthcare decision makers at home, and make the majority of decisions in regard to the purchase and use of medicines. They also constitute over 70% of the healthcare workforce. Yet women are underrepresented in healthcare leadership. Not enough C-suite executives and CEOs are women in the healthcare industry. Moreover, on average, it takes women three to five years longer to reach CEO status in the healthcare field.
Typically, lower gender diversity is seen at the top executive level, where dominant male perceptions and associated biases often take root. Rather than seeing women CEOs in healthcare, it is more common to find women in technical expert roles reporting to the CEO, like chief human resources officer, chief legal officer, or chief information officer. Women often get limited to positions where technical expertise supersedes intangible qualities. This invariably creates a major loss of input in the industry from those who have direct and intimate knowledge of its pain points.
Women face a number of complex challenges when trying to advance their careers and get to a leadership role in healthcare. One of the most difficult obstacles they have to get through is what is often referred to as the “double bind” of how women are evaluated for C-level positions. This double bind implies to the fact that women are often not only judged their achievements and technical abilities but also on how well their overall image and performance match what the organization believes a perfect female leader should be. There are certain leaders in the healthcare industry who in fact have an implicit bias against women in leadership positions because of the way things have always been in the healthcare domain. A lot of the expectations of these leaders are defined and influenced by men. As a result, even when women get promoted to higher-level positions, they commonly end up working in service-oriented functions instead of strategic and operational functions.
As Regina Temple says, to reduce the disparity in the industry, women who aspire to lead in a healthcare organization have to take certain actions. They need to try to further their education, as doing so can bring new opportunities, insights and connections in the field. Women must also create a comprehensive strategy to maximize their capacity for leadership, and put emphasis on developing the qualities and strengths needed to be a leader. They also need to remember the dynamic nature of healthcare, which requires innovative leaders that can boost the bottom line, while also improving the quality of care provided at the facility.