Women in leadership

Medical News Women in Leadership issue showcases the Commonwealth’s vast variety of female healthcare leaders and up-and-comers.

By Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman

Why women? Why now? Well, why not?

Kentucky is fortunate

to have many top leadership positions in healthcare filled by women. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said outside the Commonwealth.

Women represent an overwhelming majority of the healthcare workforce, yet they are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions, particularly at the executive and board levels.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that while women make up 73 percent of medical and health service managers, they represent just four percent of healthcare company CEOs. Zero percent of CEOs from Fortune 500 healthcare companies are women. Just 14 percent of healthcare companies’ board of directors are women.

One study published in the Journal of American Medicine showed that among a sample of 2,000 physicians, female physicians earned almost $12,000 less per year than their male counterparts, even after adjusting for specialty, academic rank, hours worked, publications and leadership positions.

Eliminating Gender Disparities
Healthcare organizations need diverse and innovative leaders—leaders who also can become mentors and role models to the people in the communities they serve.

When girls see women from their own communities in leadership positions, the possibilities for their own accomplishments become more real. Our industry will only benefit from eliminating gender disparities in the top executive positions.

Beyond the Glass Ceiling
While the leadership ladder is different for every healthcare executive, we’d be remiss to not mention that 10 of the more than 50 healthcare leaders featured began their careers as nurses. That includes KentuckyOne Health presidentand CEO, Ruth W. Brinkley. We asked Brinkley if being a female in a leadership position is an advantage or a disadvantage.

She had this to say: “There are many theories that have been put forth to account for how women lead; why or if theyare successful; how their leadership styles differ from men. Women are sometimes called indecisive because we take in a variety of variables before making a decision and almost always try to build consensus and cooperation with others.

“As women, we often don’t care who gets the credit, as long as we achieve the desired objectives,” she continued. “Research shows that as a group, women have more transformational qualities than men. Transformational leaders are inspirational, positive role models, concerned about followership and empowerment; and they push followers to be creative and take chances.”

In fact, noted leadership scholar, Bernard Bass, predicted that by the year 2034 the majority of high-level leaders will be women, based on their more transformational qualities.

Brinkley left us with this quote from Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook: “In the future there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

Until that moment comes, we will celebrate the females ones.