Gender's Impact on the Bottom Line

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, April 3, 2009

Healthcare leadership is dominated by men. All one has to do is attend a healthcare leadership conference and glance around the room. The majority of attendees will be older white males (with the exception of a nursing or quality leadership conference).

Seventy-two percent of healthcare CEOs are male, according to the HealthLeaders Media Industry Survey 2009. While the industry is making strides in leadership gender diversity, there is still a lot of room for improvement. And the sooner this occurs the better it may be for hospitals' bottom line.

Generating the best and most innovative ideas requires teams that are comprised of equal numbers of men and women, according to research out of the United Kingdom. In addition, companies with at least 25% of executive positions held by women yield a 35% higher return on equity than companies with fewer women in top positions.

Based on this type of information, Norway's minister for trade and industry, Ansgar Gabrielsen, declared last year that 40% of all boardroom positions in companies listed on the Oslo stock exchange needed be held by women within five years. If companies did not comply, they would be prosecuted. That was a pretty bold move considering that 94% of all board positions at the time were held by men, according to this Fast Company blog analyzing Norway's leadership strategy.

I'm not suggesting that healthcare organizations should mandate the number of executive leadership positions held by women. But I think its worth noting that having a more equal distribution of males and females on the team could yield better operational results. People are more likely to contribute thoughts and ideas to a discussion if they are not in the minority. Sure there are strong personality types that break this rule but, in general, people are less likely to speak up if they are the only physician, or patient, or female in the room.

I'm curious to know what you think, "Do healthcare organizations have enough female representation in the senior executive suites?"

Oh, and if you think your leadership team is at the top of its class, you still have time to enter the HealthLeaders Media Top Leadership Teams in Healthcare contest. Now in its fifth year, the program recognizes the best in senior leadership teamwork at hospitals, health plans, and medical group practices. This year's winners will be honored during HealthLeaders Media '09: The Hospital of the Future Now, an event planned for October 15-16 at The Palmer House in Chicago. Go to the Top Leadership Teams site to learn more about the six categories, download an entry form, and submit your entry. The deadline to submit is April 30.

Carrie Vaughan is leadership editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at
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