3 Ways to Promote Success for Professional Women in Healthcare

March 21, 2020

 _maximilian / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 

Women working in the field of healthcare are definitely wondering how far up the ladder they can go. Whether you are offered a promotion, considering a career change or feeling undervalued, this is a good question to ask.

So what is the place of women in healthcare?

In 2015, Rock Health analyzed some of the available data on the subject, and this is what they found:

“Despite making up more than half the healthcare workforce, women represent only 21% of executives and 21% of board members at Fortune 500 healthcare companies. Of the 125 women who carry an executive title, only five serve in operating roles as COO or President. And there’s only one woman CEO of a Fortune 500 healthcare company.”

A more recent study from 2019 by Oliver Wyman also found that women are 65% of healthcare's workforce, but 13% of CEOs. Plus, women in healthcare need 3-5 years longer to reach a CEO position.

Research by McKinsey & Company showed that women are significantly better represented at all levels in healthcare compared to other industries. In spite of this, for more than 30 years they’ve been earning more Bachelor’s degrees than men and still struggle to be awarded and rewarded what they really deserve.

The facts are discouraging. However, the community of women in healthcare worldwide is constantly working toward improving them in the future.

Now let’s take a look at some of the barriers on the way of women in more senior roles, and what can be done to achieve more gender equality.

Women in Healthcare Leadership

 Asian Development Bank / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 

It’s hard to aspire to something when you can’t see others already making a success of it. The “I want to do that when I grow up” moment doesn’t happen as often for girls when there are so few women in senior healthcare roles to help them visualize it. Women go on to senior management without these influences, but finding inspiration is an important factor all the same.

This is why networking is vital for women who want to see greater opportunities in senior healthcare management jobs. Networking with other women who already have seniority in health professions can provide that missing role model. Helping this process can make a big positive difference and contribute to the growing success of executive women in healthcare.

The WHCM (Women in Healthcare Management) has operated with much success in this area. Elaine Ullian, former president and CEO of the Boston Medical Center, says in a WHCM testimonial:

“My entire career trajectory was shaped by Women in Health Care Management. It is where I learned to speak up and advocate for myself. It was an environment that provided unconditional support and commitment to help each other advance in our respective careers.”

Such groups rely on women who have already made it to the top, taking time out to reiterate everything they learned along the way and share it with those just starting out.

Women Leaders as Mentors in Healthcare Training

Group networking and one-to-one relationships with women in top medical management jobs are beneficial for women at every stage of their career development:

  • Schoolgirls dreaming to help others through healthcare
  • Undergraduate students considering graduate or medical school
  • Graduates looking for jobs in allied health careers or other areas
  • Young women in healthcare certification programs
  • Women in hospital administration jobs who want to move up the ranks
  • Female middle management staff who are looking to progress

Finding a mentor to encourage you and offer advice is a common practice. It involves finding somebody in your field who is willing to give you part of their time and attention for free. This generous yet responsible act can not only help to advance professional education, but also enrich understanding of the American healthcare institution in general.

Every two years, Modern Healthcare magazine compiles a list of the Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare, and one of the criteria these senior female professionals are judged on is that they “demonstrated a willingness to share expertise with others in the field.”

If you feel this may be a good route for you to take, then read the following guidance from Carol Baffi-Dugan and Robert Hung on finding and working with a mentor.

Better Work-Life Balance

One of the biggest challenges for women is the difficulty involved in juggling work and family. Women are often seen as child-bearers who take time off or move from full-time to part-time work so that they can take care of young children. This has been among the main factors having a negative impact on their careers in the past decades.

In an article called Can Doctors Have Work-Life Balance?, Time spoke to medical students to find out whether this is the reality:

“I often meet physicians who tell me it’s possible to have both a family and a career, but for the most part, they are men with wives who have made the tough decision to work part-time for them. The women I have met have painted a more pragmatic picture — you can have what you want, just not all of it.” – Alexandra Charrow, student

Finding the right work-life balance, especially for female healthcare professionals, can be quite a challenge. This challenge, however, should be equally shared between men and women. Female healthcare workers do not have to face it all alone.

Better work-life balance leads to a more productive and healthier work environment. That is why more happy female employees who are not judged based on gender stereotypes translates into more opportunities for women in healthcare. A great way to make them feel appreciated and have the motivation to further grow in the healthcare field.

Another way to provide this good balance is by offering equal financial rewards and benefits. Some industries like the pharmaceutical have almost eliminated the gender wage gap to achieve a more productive work environment.

It stands to reason that all healthcare professionals must support the breaking down of traditional barriers of opportunity for women so that conditions can improve for everyone.

There are ways to work in the field of healthcare without having a medical degree and spending a fortune on university fees. The allied healthcare industry offers equal opportunities to employees with the same level of expertise and qualification. What’s more, you will be generously rewarded and truly appreciated for years to come.