Identifying Room for Improvement
No one likes being disappointed. You’ve likely heard about the discouraging statistics on gender parity in healthcare and other industries. In fact, the inspiration for the HIT Like a Girl podcast came from seeing the obvious shortage of C-level women executives in keynote positions or in prime speaking roles on health conference agendas. And in full transparency, this includes the inaugural HLTH conference in 2018, which showcased less than 20 percent of women speakers.
Even though that number was in line with industry averages, it was far below what any of us should be satisfied with.
Change is on the Horizon
However, change appears to be on the horizon. It’s inspiring to see that the consistent beating of the gender parity drum is starting to make a difference. People in leadership positions are in agreement that we can and should make every effort to do better. Recent noteworthy strides in this arena include:
- NIH Director Francis Collins will no longer speak on all-male panels (known as manels) and he calls for others to follow his lead.
- The HLTH conference has stood up an entire pillar of their programming to shine a light on some of the initiatives across the health industry that are addressing the disparity of women in executive and board roles within health organizations.
HLTH – Improving the Status Quo
Women can do (and are doing) more actionable things to change the status quo. Men can help too, and we still have a long way to go. We’re happy to report that women are getting additional support from the organizers of the HLTH conference.
HLTH is taking serious strides in action this year. Their efforts include:
- Get On Board: Break into the Boardroom. In partnership with Deerfield Management and Oxeon Partners, this program strategically matches female executives seeking boardroom positions with interested organizations seeking new board talent. Their goal is to place a high number of qualified women on board seats in 2019 and beat that number year over year.
- Women in healthcare leadership survey. They’re working closely with the Oliver Wyman team on a survey regarding women in healthcare leadership. Their hope is to demystify perceptions of “good” leadership, create awareness of where we differ and converge on aspirations and expectations, and ultimately make invisible barriers visible for all. Research abounds on how diversity leads to better results and a much more productive and creative workforce. The results of the survey will be presented by the HLTH team, and with Oliver Wyman, on stage during opening remarks on Sunday night at HLTH
- Women at HLTH Program. This afternoon session on Wednesday, Oct. 30 will be packed with panel discussions featuring organizations that have implemented strategies and are experiencing successes in advancing women into executive roles across the health ecosystem.
- “Filling the Female Pipeline: Insights from McKinsey & Company’s “Women in the Workplace — Healthcare Industry”
- “When Women Thrive: Insights from the Employer Workplace
- “Women of Impact: Women’s Role in Realigning the Healthcare System to Meet the Needs of All Americans”
- Bonus – I’ve been invited to get directly involved. I’ll be moderating these three panels:
- “7 Things Smart Companies Do to Close the Gender Gap”
- “Supporting Women in Achieving Goals, Advancing Careers, and Fueling Innovation Across Health”
- “Further Development of Women in Engineering for Health AI”
- Networking Reception to follow, because there’s no better way to celebrate progress than with a toast!
- And more to come!
- Women of Impact Luncheon: Advancing Women Executives in HLTH in the #MeToo Era. This session will host a practical discussion on how to successfully mentor, promote, and empower female leaders, considering that everyone, regardless of their gender, has a role to play.
- ParityPledge: Examining Applicant Equity. HLTH and Parity.org are teaming up to narrow the gender inequality gap and increase the percentage of C-Suite women executives across the health industry. Here is an opportunity to take the pledge and commit your organization to interview and consider at least one qualified woman for every open role VP level and above. HLTH’s goal is to have hundreds of companies take this pledge and as a result, truly creating change at the base level.
- HLTH Foundation. HLTH’s non-profit arm is giving back to deserving causes across the entire health ecosystem, creating a way to reach far beyond a 4-day event. They have already donated over $275k to other non-profits who support the mission of ensuring access to quality, affordable health care regardless of a person’s health status, social need, or income. CEO Jonathan Weiner has pledged to give $100k to non-profit organizations with parity initiatives to advance more women into leadership positions throughout the health industry. If interested in submitting information to receive donations, please email email@example.com.
“HLTH is proud to announce the WOMEN at HLTH program. By supporting organizations that are working towards advancing women in leadership roles in health organizations, we hope to tackle the issue at its foundation. We will not longer accept the lack of female representation on all conference stages in our industry. Our goal is to grow these initiatives year over year and have the metrics to report where real change is being made,” said Jonathan Weiner.
The leaders of the HLTH conference are clearly not just making token efforts or doing this for optics. They are leading by example, trying to make impactful change. I hope to see more healthcare conferences follow in their footsteps.
The Research on Women in Healthcare
Drawing from McKinsey and Company’s latest research on how the healthcare sector ranks in terms of gender equality, here are some important considerations:
- Women are the primary consumers and decision-makers in the healthcare market. They make up almost 50 percent of the workforce. Much of their advancement and leadership in the field rests on this fact.
- “People come [into the healthcare industry] because they really care—and these people are disproportionately female.”
- Even though healthcare appears to be one of the best industries for working women on several dimensions, their lack of representation in C-level positions stems from the trend that women are often promoted because of their past performance, while men are promoted because of their potential performance.
- For white women, the glass ceiling seems to exist between the senior manager/director and VP levels. The glass ceiling for women of color starts at the first promotion to manager.
- Lack of ambition cannot explain the leakiness of the talent pipeline for women. There are three emerging problems that lead to representation decline in healthcare:
- Structural challenges (such as hiring and advancement practices),
- Institutional barriers allowing underlying biases to persist, and
- Impact of the daily work environment not promoting an inclusive and supportive experience for all employees.
At entry-level, women make up 63 percent of line roles (i.e. jobs that are essential to the functionality of the business); however, at the C-suite level, women comprise of just 29 percent of line roles. For providers, a large proportion of entry-level hires are female nurses, and nursing is a career path that often ends at the nursing-director level with few additional senior roles. When healthcare organizations hire for more senior roles, women lose the most ground to men through external hiring.
Embedded mind-sets and biases may create additional challenges. “We tend to hire what’s similar [to ourselves], and when there is not a lot of diversity at the top, it’s hard to breakthrough.” Women are more motivated by an opportunity to become role models for other women whereas men tend to be slightly more financially driven and aspire to create impact for the company.
Four things hold women back from seeking promotions:
- Imposter syndrome
- The feeling that if I work hard enough, I’ll get there
- A lack of sponsors and mentors
- Not being able to bring one’s full self to work
Biases remain around belittling the importance of diversity. While 80 percent of employees believe gender diversity is a high priority for their company, 40 percent of people who do not believe it’s a high priority think that diversity deprioritizes individual performance.
Impact of the Daily Work Environment
Let’s shine a light on how it feels to be a woman in the healthcare industry: Women are more likely to face microaggressions and incivility in the workplace.
Additionally, women who are in senior positions are nine times more likely than men to be the only person of their gender in the room. Women in technical roles are roughly eight times more likely than men to be an “only.” This is important because women “onlys” can face higher levels of scrutiny and pressure to perform. As a result, they often are more likely to think about leaving their jobs.
*HIT Like a Girl podcast is a proud Media Partner of HLTH