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Time for Women to 'Lean In' to Healthcare Leadership Roles

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, April 1, 2013

Having entered the workforce only a few years ago myself, this isn't what I had anticipated either. At the current pace of progress, when I reach retirement age, only 16.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs will be women.

Healthcare is no exception to these dismal stats. According to 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 75% of the healthcare workforce, but only 18% of hospital CEOs are women. In fact, the American College of Healthcare Executives, an organization that advocates for diversity in the healthcare executive community elected its first female president this year.

This is also the first time ACHE has had an all-female executive team. Deborah J. Bowen, FACHE, CAE, who was formerly the association's COO, officially begins her position as president and CEO this May, taking the place of her retiring male predecessor and mentor Thomas C. Dolan, PhD, FACHE, CAE, who has led the organization for 22 years.

"Twenty-two years ago a woman probably wasn't even on the radar," says Bowen. "[Healthcare] will probably [remain] a largely female-dominated career field in another decade. But healthcare has a long way to go. It's a female-dominated industry, so the leadership should reflect that population."

"What you should be able to do… is to look at the population, and then glance at the board room representation, and see a correlation there. I think healthcare is falling short in that arena," says Bowen. "I think seeing more women in the C-suite can be an added advantage to any system, and in the board room, to be honest… Certainly we know that diverse management teams have the benefit of more perspectives and that's got to be good for decision-making. "

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2 comments on "Time for Women to 'Lean In' to Healthcare Leadership Roles"


ERASTOTHENES DE ALEJANDRIA (4/3/2013 at 11:37 AM)
Unfortunately and still today, the woman has a big problem. You must choose between personal life and work life and also must do so on occasions, repeatedly and that leads to not want to ascend to great works that can limit your personal life. I think that it is very difficult to give a solution to this problem. I don't have it

Phyllis Kritek, RN, PhD (4/2/2013 at 10:20 AM)
I read this report with fascination. It reflects the chronic blind spot Health Leaders Media tends to perpetuate. Most C suites have a woman, the Chief Nursing Officer who is usually a woman, providing leadership of the largest portion of the work force doing the work most directly related to the organization's mission: patient care. Yet there is a tendency to ignore this resource pool for CEO and COO positions. And of course, yes, they have a clinical background. Wouldn't it be interesting to find out why this resource pool is ignored or passed over? I often wonder what CEOs would do if confronted with the leadership challenges managed by most CNOs.