Skip to main content

Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Future Healthcare Execs

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   November 19, 2020

A panel of women healthcare executives discussed the opportunities and challenges of their gender in the C-suite.

Editor's note: This article is based on a roundtable discussion report sponsored by Bank of America. The full report, Amplifying Her Voice: Women in Healthcare Leadership, is available as a free download.

According to an analysis from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org released in August, women only make up 30% of the healthcare C-suite, while accounting for 66% of entry-level healthcare roles.

To break through the glass ceiling to the C-suite, women must support each other.

"As we work with people, we need to show positivity, which seems, at times, in short supply. We need to make sure that we recognize people for their work, even if it’s in simple ways," CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System Dr. Susan Turney said.

Leaders in the C-suite should sponsor and mentor those serving below them.

"There’s a difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Mentoring is coaching, telling people what you think, and giving them advice. But what you really need if you want to advance is a sponsor. …[Y]our sponsor is the person who’s making sure there’s a crack in the door, and when the door opens, that you're ready and well positioned," Chief Strategy Officer of Henry Ford Health System Carladenise Edwards said.

Women looking to advance their careers should focus on building rapport and accept appropriate opportunities.

"When you look at a cross-section of a group, women tend to work hard because they are put at a disadvantage in many ways. …But in the process, I would suggest they don’t miss out on external relationships, influence, [and] branding," Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Digital Officer for CommonSpirit Health Suja Chandrasekaran said.

"To make sure that what you do as a leader, and what you do as a good community member, there’s a certain amount of that “yes” you do need to do but .... you need to balance that. So, while I’m saying 'say yes,' I’m also saying 'be discerning about what you say yes to,' " President of City of Hope Orange County Annette Walker said.

And organizations should assist women in their workforce with their disproportionate load through programs and resources.

"We offer an Emerging Leader program designed for team members who are interested in progressing their careers. … In addition, we offer an Advanced Leader Program designed for mid-level leaders and physicians who show potential to be the next top-level strategic leaders in the organization," CFO of Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center Patricia Plair said.

View the complete HealthLeaders Roundtable report: Amplifying Her Voice: Women in Healthcare Leadership

Editors note: Suja Chandrasekaran and Patricia Plair's titles have been updated.

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

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.