Key Post Highlights
> Women make up 70% of healthcare workers, but they make up only 25% of healthcare leadership.
> Women leaders can help support women’s health initiatives.
> 31% of women leaders compared to 19% of male leaders are reported to provide emotional support to employees.
I believe in data. In the NBA, the data shows who the best players are. In content creation, the data points to what people are searching for and what they really care about. In healthcare, the data shows what’s effective in promoting quality healthcare — and what’s not.
In the case of women leaders in healthcare, the data has historically been a letdown. While women make up 70% of healthcare workers around the world, they make up just 25% of healthcare leadership.
This shouldn’t be a shocking statistic. If you’ve been in healthcare for any length of time, you’ve probably seen or even been a part of this uneven makeup of healthcare leaders.
This International Women’s Day, let’s look at why women are so underrepresented in healthcare leadership, why this is a problem, and why it’s important to support women as they climb their ladders of success.
Why We Need Women Leaders in Healthcare
Other than the obvious factor of women facing an unequal amount of hurdles when it comes to their career success, a lack of women leaders in healthcare is problematic for the health of our country, too.
Having too few women in healthcare leadership means the patient population isn’t accurately reflected in decision-making roles. This causes women to have a limited ability to influence health policies that are based on their lived experiences (not to mention the lived experiences of half of the country).
Women experience unique health issues, ranging from pregnancy to menopause to emotional challenges, like postpartum depression. Problems that are unique to women may not get the attention they deserve if women aren’t in a position to change how things are done.
For instance, American women are three times more likely to die in childbirth compared to women in Norway or Sweden. They also report being more emotionally distressed compared to women in Germany or France. With the right resources and support, women’s health issues might take more of a priority, benefitting the health of all women.
What’s more, women offer a unique — and beneficial — approach to leadership compared to their male counterparts. Women are reported to be more:
- Considerate of the well-being of their employees
- Engaged in providing emotional support
- Supportive of a work-life balance
- Focused on preventing burnout
Women leaders are also more likely to spearhead diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
Burnout, emotional distress, a lack of work-life balance, a lack of diversity — these are all common challenges in healthcare. With women in leadership roles, there’s more of a chance they’ll be addressed. In turn, more supportive work environments can lead to happier employees and higher retention rates, which leads to better patient care.
The Future of Women in Healthcare Leadership
The solution to this problem is straightforward — hire more women and support them as they grow in their careers. This doesn’t mean giving them more opportunities than men, but it means evening out the playing field.
Provide reasonable support for working moms, talk about and address gender biases within your organizations, and appoint qualified and deserving women to leadership roles.
As for the next generation of women leaders, here’s my advice to you: Plan your life.
Don’t think that things are just going to fall into place. Plan when you want to have kids. Plan at what point in your career you want to focus on those kids. Plan when in your career you want to grind and try to crash through the glass ceiling.
Remember, life is about using our talents and gifts, but it’s also about being spiritually and emotionally fulfilled. That typically requires making sure you hit several high notes in your personal and professional life.
This International Women’s Day and every day, let’s celebrate all women — working women, women who are the primary caregivers for their children and other family members, and women who inspire other women. It’s together that we will achieve the most for ourselves and the people around us.