Despite the fact that female consumers make 80% of buying and usage decisions in healthcare, women are conspicuously absent in healthcare C-suites, making up roughly 30% of senior leadership positions and a dismal 13% of CEOs.
The dearth of women at top is found even as they represent 65% of the healthcare workforce. Just shy of 30% of of COOs and 23% of CFOs and chief actuaries in healthcare companies are women, according to the Oliver Wyman report released Monday. On average, it takes women three to five years longer than men to reach CEO across different types of industry organizations.
The report suggests leaders can make meaningful progress in gender diversity by ratcheting up company commitment, purposefully balancing the playing field and explicitly addressing misperceptions to change sexist behavior companywide.
The U.S. had more male chief executives named John than female CEOs combined in one 2015 study by consultancy EY, so this closer look at sexism on the highest rungs of healthcare leadership may be unsurprising — especially to women.
But, as consumerism and competition loom over healthcare, it is noteworthy that healthcare companies haven't turned to diversity as a way to differentiate themselves to retain an increasingly picky patient population.
Studies have shown that diversity in race, background, sex, education level and across a myriad of other factors improve company performance because differences cause teams to question their default, sometimes erroneous, assumptions. So what’s holding the American healthcare sector back from balancing the proverbial scales?
The report blames subtle factors for the continuing inequality, including an implicit lack of trust in female executives in male-dominated workplaces and discrepancies in how the sexes judge behaviors (including that women are much less likely to self-advocate) and communicate.
Women are also likely to be pegged as not strategic or too valuable in certain roles, the report found, along with having a lack of confidence. "If we want to break the cycle, women need leaders willing to bet on competency and potential versus relying on a more narrowly defined 'traditional path,'" according to the report.
Women do represent more of the healthcare workforce than in other sectors such as finance (46%) or tech (26%). "Healthcare, unlike other industries, does not have a 'women in healthcare' problem, but a 'women in healthcare leadership' problem," they write.
Oliver Wyman developed comprehensive profiles of more than 130 payer and provider boards that account for about 70% of market revenue, analyzed the paths of more than 110 CEOs and undertook 75 interviews to create the report.