Women in Leadership: 5 Organizational Practices to Increase Gender Diversity in Healthcare
Hospitals and other large-scale providers are cultivating relationships with healthcare staffing agencies in search of a pipeline for female talent. A growing body of research demonstrates the positive effects of a diverse workforce on the healthcare industry, including improved organizational performance and better patient care. But that’s not all. According to The International Journal of Human Resource Management, “gender diversity contributes to firm competitiveness by improving decision-making processes, fostering innovation and creativity, and bringing different perspectives and cognitive structures to the firm.”
It’s well-documented that women are underrepresented in leadership positions within the healthcare field. Despite the many strides women have made over the years, they remain vastly outnumbered by men at the highest levels of healthcare management and decision-making. According to a study by the American College of Healthcare Executives, men outnumber women in all healthcare executive positions in the United States. In total, women comprise only 18% of all CEOs, 15% of CFOs, and 24% of CMOs. Female CIOs are especially rare, comprising just 11% of all hospital CIOs.
These figures show that while women have certainly come a long way (and continue to forge pathways) in terms of representation in the healthcare industry, there is still significant work to be done before true gender parity can be achieved. Women may face biases and prejudices that prevent them from advancing in their careers or landing leadership positions. Additionally, there may be structural elements within the healthcare field that actively inhibit the growth of female executives. Providing a framework for change within organizational practices may prove to be the best long-term solution to gender inequity.
Even hiring platforms that rely on algorithms are not immune to bias – some resulted in lower ranking for candidates who attended all-female colleges, for example. Healthcare groups can hit the ground running by cultivating their own fair hiring practices, recruiting and promoting qualified female healthcare professionals. Companies can begin by choosing healthcare staffing agencies versed in modernized hiring practices and able to ensure that resumes from female applicants are given equal consideration as those from their male counterparts. Organizations, physician recruiters and healthcare staffing agencies may also put measures in place to support the success of women once they are hired.
Awareness and engagement of gender equity issues within the workplace may be a critical component of inclusion. While maternity policies are an obvious issue, many aspects of the problem are neither widely known nor understood by those who may be unaffected. As an example, female healthcare workers are disproportionately subject to harassment and even violence. And female physicians have one of the highest suicide rates, making the profession one of the most perilous in the US. Educating staff on the differences between gender inequity and gender equality allows for a greater understanding of the issues that exist and how to move toward more equitable solutions. Educational initiatives and even the inclusion of gender equity advocates can help create a culture of understanding and respect.
Mentoring and networks are powerful tools that can help build a foundation of gender equitable practices. Establishing mentorship programs and networks that promote a shared understanding of gender equity allows for the exchange of ideas and resources, as well as collaboration that can lead to the development of best practices. Additionally, these networks can provide an avenue for individuals to network and bring awareness to their colleagues, which can have an important impact on overall engagement levels.
Leadership training that focuses on identifying and addressing gender disparities can help create a more receptive and inclusive environment. This type of training can also support female employees in developing the skills needed to become successful leaders. Additionally, leadership development can help in identifying and removing any potential barriers to gender-equitable policy implementation. Any efforts along these lines go a long way toward helping female employees feel respected and empowered to pursue top-level positions within the healthcare industry.
Organizational support tools are essential for creating a more equitable workplace. Tools such as employee resource groups, policies and guidelines, and organizational initiatives can help create a safe and supportive environment for all genders. Additionally, organizations can implement clear lines of communication so that employees can express their concerns and report any instances of gender inequality they may encounter.
By implementing organizational processes, raising awareness, establishing mentoring and networking opportunities, developing leadership skills and supporting systems, healthcare organizations can strive to create an environment in which everyone is treated equitably.
By communicating gender parity goals clearly to physician recruiters and prioritizing the advancement of women into positions of leadership, healthcare organizations can move towards a more equitable and inclusive industry. This will ultimately lead to better patient care and improved organizational outcomes for everyone.