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Study Finds Women Only Make Up 15% of Health System CEOs

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   November 30, 2021

While healthcare organizations have made steps to diversify their C-suite and leadership roles, there is still more work to be done.

The representation of women in CEO roles in healthcare is still disproportionate to men, a Jama Network Open research letter, published yesterday, found.

The study authors collected data from U.S. health systems with a minimum of five affiliated hospitals, health insurance groups with at least .09% of the U.S. health insurance market share, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human services (HHS), between April 1 and May 31 of 2021.

Although women represent a large population in the healthcare workforce, the study found that women only made up 15.3% of CEOs in health systems and only 15.8% of CEOs in health insurance groups.

While health systems and other healthcare organizations have made steps to diversify their C-suite and leadership roles, there is still more work to be done.

The study also found that:

  • Only 17.5% of Board of Director chairpersons in health systems were women, and only 21.3% were women in insurance groups
  • An estimated 20%–50% of executive leadership positions were filled by women in both health systems and health insurance groups
  • Women CEOs were associated with a board of directors with a higher proportion of women on them
  • A higher proportion of women on senior executive teams of health insurance groups were also associated with an increased representation of women CEOs

The study also found that the data was different when looking at the HHS. Within 31 leadership positions in the organization, women were in the majority at 58.1%, and men were in the minority at 41.9%.

The authors conclude that the study is not exhaustive and that by looking at gender as a binary system created limitations. "The factors associated with the representation of women may have been limited in scope. Furthermore, assigning gender to binary categories was a limitation. The findings support the increased prioritization of gender diversity at all hierarchical areas in the US health care system."

Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


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