The Women’s Health Leadership TRUST is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and we’ve seen significant progress for women in health care since the late 1970s. Take a look at the 12 issue covers for Modern Healthcare in 1979 and you’ll see one woman on the cover. With such media representation, it’s easy to see leadership opportunities for women in health care were indeed scarce 40 years ago. We have made so many strides yet women in health care continue to see gender imbalance in leadership positions. Let’s take a closer look at gender gains — and gaps.
- Women make up 80 percent of the health care workforce.1 Across all industries, women make up about 47 percent of the workforce in the U.S.
- Women are increasingly viewed as good business leaders. Approximately 80% of the public views men and women as equally good business leaders. For hospital management, 44 percent say gender doesn’t matter when it comes to running a hospital, 37 percent believe a woman would be a better hospital leader while 14 percent said a man would do a better job.2
- Women have made significant inroads as board directors. Among Fortune 500 companies in 2018, only 12 lacked a single female board member. This is major momentum in the right direction, considering five years ago 42 of the Fortune 500 lacked women directors and 10 years ago that number was 69.3
- Women are now more likely to complete college and continue their education. In 1974, approximately 14 percent of women ages 25-29 had a Bachelor’s degree. In 2013, that number rose to 37 percent, which outpaced the percentage of men ages 25-29 by 7 percent. In 2012, women earned 60 percent of all Master’s degrees (up from 46 percent in 1977) and 51 percent of all doctorates (up from 21 percent in 1977). In 2013, women earned 36 percent of MBAs.4
Room for Growth
- Women remain immensely underrepresented in leadership roles. Although women make up the majority of the health care workforce and graduate from medical school in equal numbers to men, the numbers are less impressive when it comes to leadership positions. Just three percent of health care CEOs are women, three percent are chief medical officers, six percent are department chairs and nine percent are division chiefs. It’s especially surprising these numbers continue to lag given evidence that companies with women in executive management and on corporate boards have shown greater financial performance.1
- Women continue to earn less than male counterparts, on average. The 2018 Nursing Salary Research Report revealed men in nursing earn more than $6,000 more a year than women in nursing.5 Research from Health Information and Management Systems Society reported male primary care physicians earning nearly 18 percent more than female counterparts while men in health information technology roles earned approximately $23,000 more than women in similar roles.5
- Women of color face an even wider gap. More than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies have no women of color on their boards. Women of color occupy approximately 12 percent of managerial and professional positions — this is across all industries so the percentage is even smaller within health care.6
- Women continue to lag behind men in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) roles. Thankfully we’re seeing more companies take an active interest in encouraging girls to engage in STEM learning from a young age. For example, STEM toys for computer coding are demonstrating such skills are fun in addition to being educational. We will see the number of women actively pursuing STEM careers increase as more girls and young women are able to envision themselves in such roles through early exploration.
Diversity of gender, age, race and other backgrounds and experiences more broadly represent society and can strengthen organizational performance and value. While we can — and should — applaud the advances women have made, we must recognize there remain significant opportunities for growth. The Women’s Health Leadership TRUST exists to advance the health careers of women by delivering programs designed to enhance leadership skills, providing educational courses and creating opportunities to network within the industry. Together, as TRUST members and health care professionals, we have the ability to play a leading role in empowering and aiding each other to rise as leaders. I hope you will join me at the TRUST Forum on April 9 as we celebrate our successes over the past 40 years and focus on the future to shape the next 40 years!
1 Harvard Business Review
2 Pew Research Center – What Makes a Good Leader
4 Pew Research Center – Women in Leadership
5 Healthcare Finance News
6 Black Enterprise
Monica Engel currently serves as TRUST President, President of Medicare Markets at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and board member for Mii Life Inc./Select Account. Engel holds a degree in business management and has completed the Minnesota Management Institute program from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management. In 2017, the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce honored Engel with a “Women of Excellence” award.