The statistics for women in health care leadership positions must improve to drive innovation into the 21st century. Women comprise nearly two-thirds of the health care industry and make around 80% of buying decisions in the space, but they fill only around 30% of C-suite positions, according to a 2019 study by Oliver Wyman. To make strides in health care policy and innovation, we need to ensure women have a seat at the table and are making decisions that impact health care innovation and strategy.
When you look at executive positions specifically, the number of women in health care leadership takes a nosedive. Currently, only 13% of health care CEOs are women, the Oliver Wyman study also found. (And that number is up from 4% in 2012.) Progress might be slower than expected, but with a growth mindset, you can create a purpose-driven culture of innovation. This is a win-win scenario, as doing so can help you attract top talent to the health care industry and empower women facing financial challenges by boosting their earning potential.
If you are a woman who has broken through the glass ceiling, or a man who wants to empower more women to succeed, the five tips below will help you move the needle forward.
1. Assess where your organization is.
To create a win-win growth strategy within your organization, you must first identify your areas of opportunity. Begin by assessing how many women you currently have in leadership and executive management. This number should include the percentage for each level and layer of leadership, a combined leadership total and the percentage of women you employ company-wide. The goal here is to create a measurable starting point. Whether your numbers are above or below industry standards, don’t get discouraged. It is vital to have a growth mindset and focus on growth and learning.
2. Prioritize succession planning.
Now that you have your numbers, sit down with your management team and look at your internal succession plans. Your growth mindset shift should be a source of inspiration that challenges you not only to find top talent but also to develop top talent. Creating pathways for women in executive management can help grow your organization in ways you might have yet to consider.
Most health care organizations have at least a few stop-points where there is nowhere to go next. Identify these gaps and ceilings, then create strategies to provide access to executive positions. This might include mentorship, which I’ll discuss below, and ongoing education. If additional training or knowledge is required, consider how to encourage and support development even when those pathways might be hard to overcome. Mentors and sponsors are needed for women, and creating and removing barriers and opening doors are often necessary to drive those women to opportunities that are required.
3. Develop a talent-hiring strategy.
Now it’s time to assess whether most of your executives and leadership are brought in externally or whether you tend to promote leadership positions from within. There are benefits to both growth strategies, as an outside hire can bring a fresh, new perspective. Begin with who your human resources team has seriously considered for your past few leadership positions, and assess how many of these candidates were women. Every growth strategy must focus on purpose, experience and end result.
4. Engage with an in-house leadership program.
Mentoring is a win-win for both executives and women who aspire to lead, so ensure you take actionable steps to help create leadership programs in your company that help employees further develop their skills. It shows your dedication to progress and is also part of your retention and growth strategy. Women make 80% of the health care decisions for their families. As the primary decision-making demographic, women’s insights can help drive innovation for your organization, so give them the tools necessary to succeed.
5. Develop a purpose-driven culture.
Inclusion is vital for corporate social responsibility. The culture in your company should empower every underserved demographic, including women and people of diverse cultures. This is what enhances the health of any organization. Once you have a growth strategy in place to empower women in leadership, you can begin building this type of culture by letting your new pathways and policies be known. As you make positive strides, drive successes, both internally and externally.
By ensuring there is always a seat for women at the table, you are creating a health care organization that is driving innovation for the future.