Recommendations for How Hospitals and Health Systems Can Support More Women in Leadership Roles

This is the fifth in a series of posts from our study of career inflection points of women leaders. We would like to thank Hospira for their continued support of this research topic.

This blog will focus on activities that will support the careers of women in healthcare leadership.

The gender disparity in hospital CEO positions has changed very little over the past few decades and short of some unanticipated development, this disparity is likely to continue. We encourage the use of evidence-based practices and provide the following from our interviews with successful women CEOs.

First, hospital and system leaders should directly cultivate career aspirations of women associates and encourage early careerists to proactively manage their careers, regardless of functional background. This can be achieved by developing career plans and discussing a range of potential future positions with emerging leaders of both genders.

Second, organizations can develop formal mentoring programs to enhance career management activities and encourage a wide range of senior leaders to get involved in the development of future leadership talent. We specifically found that administrative fellowship programs were instrumental in the eventual career success of women leaders and encourage the development of new fellowships and the continued support for fellowship programs in hospitals.

In addition to fellowship programs, hospitals and health systems can provide training opportunities in a variety of settings (e.g., cross-division) and expand membership in high-visibility projects. Chief learning officers and talent directors can encourage and recommend junior women and men for projects that will support this critical type of inflection; further, leaders can proactively sponsor talented employees with opportunities for growth, such as advanced education, on-the-job training, or executive coaching.

Finally, systems and hospitals can work with leaders at all levels to support (financially and structurally) the development of women’s groups or other networking events for women.   This includes supporting the participation of women in community women’s groups as well as programs that occur within the hospital or health system itself.

Do you have any stories from your own career path that you can share? What inflections, whether good or bad, have impacted your ability to move up the career ladder? How can healthcare foster the attainment of leadership roles for more women?

About Christy Lemak

teacher and scholar interested in strenghthening leadership in health care

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