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Women Represent Majority of Healthcare Buying Decisions and Workforce but Few Make it to C-Suite According to Oliver Wyman


New Report Identifies 5 Unintended Leadership Barriers and Provides Path Forward

In US healthcare, women make 80 percent of buying and usage decisions and represent 65 percent of the workforce – a relatively high number compared to other industries. However, they are not progressing to the C-suite, making up only 13 percent of chief executive officers (CEOs), according to a new Oliver Wyman report, titled Women in Healthcare Leadership.

“Healthcare, unlike other industries, does not have a ‘women in healthcare’ problem, but a ‘women in healthcare leadership’ problem,” said Terry Stone, Health & Life Sciences managing partner, Oliver Wyman. “How can the industry move towards becoming more consumer-oriented when it lacks a leadership team that reflects and relates to those making the most decisions?”

What’s Holding Women Back

The report found it is much harder for women to achieve the same level of implicit trust in male-dominated workplaces. The closer women get to the top, the less diversity exists, and the more dominant male perceptions and unintentional biases become.

When women do make it to roles reporting to the CEO, they tend to serve as technical experts (such as Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief Legal Officer, or Chief Information Officer) where technical expertise potentially supersedes more intangible qualities such as leadership. In fact, the report found 65 percent of women in C-suite healthcare positions fill technical or influencer roles.

Additional key findings:

  • Path to CEO – The path to CEO for women in healthcare takes an average of 3.5 years longer than for men.
  • Beyond the Perfect Resume – Organizations with at least 40 percent of their C-suite positions held by women, had talent and promotion approaches that prioritized ability and potential above a perfect resume.
  • Problem Solver’s Dilemma – Women often build credibility early on as problem solvers. However, this can unintentionally backfire if the perception becomes they are not strategic and are pigeonholed into executional, not strategic, roles.
  • Debunking the Myth: It’s Not About Confidence – The confidence gap and imposter syndrome are often cited as part of what may be holding women back in business. However, the report found this was not true among the women interviewed. Rather, they appear to have different views on what it means to be competent.
  • Results: They Don’t Just Speak for Themselves – Women interviewed overwhelmingly felt “results speak for themselves.” However, when women over-rely on results, it unintentionally causes women to be less top-of-mind for promotions. Results are important, but leadership is broader than a result and the way results are achieved is also important.

The Path Forward

The report concludes with suggestions on ways to move forward and identified three steps companies can take to close the C-suite gap:

  • Be bold. Step up your organization’s commitment to the challenge.
  • Purposefully balance the uneven playing field when it comes to sponsorship and mentoring.
  • Explicitly address misperceptions. Change the behaviors that go along with them. Build new habits.

Specifically the report noted these suggestions for driving change 1) focus less on a woman’s career path and more on her potential to thrive; 2) have a greater awareness of unintended perceptions and; 3) both men and women need to be aware of unconscious behaviors and biases they perpetuate and; 4) promote a shared sense of ownership and collaboration regarding promotion decisions to drive diversity efforts.

About the report

The report identified and developed profiles of more than 3,000 C-suite executives and board members across US-based health insurers and health systems and physician groups to understand what is driving the gap at the top – despite a much more robust pipeline of qualified women than other industries. The career paths of 112 CEOs were analyzed in traditional healthcare organizations. Additionally, more than 75 men and women in the industry – from directors to CEOs – were interviewed to understand the visible and invisible dynamics women face.

About Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman is a global leader in management consulting. With offices in 50+ cities across nearly 30 counties, Oliver Wyman combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organization transformation. The firm has more than 5,000 professionals around the world who work with clients to optimize their business, improve their operations and risk profile, and accelerate their organizational performance to seize the most attractive opportunities. Oliver Wyman is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC]. For more information, visit www.oliverwyman.com. Follow Oliver Wyman on Twitter @OliverWyman.

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