Friday, August 17, 2012

Women, Women Everywhere and Not a CEO Among Them

I have spent most of my working career in healthcare, a total of 12 years.  Three years as a Social Worker and Family Counselor, and then nine years as a Health Care Executive, working in private medical practices as a manager.  I am currently looking for a job but I am either over qualified for a manager’s position or under qualified for a director’s position.  As a dual master holder, MSW and MBA, with a total of 17 years working, 14 as a manager, I was dismayed at how I could still be under qualified until I found this article:

The article points out that, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73% of medical and health service managers are women.  This has been my experience.  Whenever I attend one of my  professional groups meetings or seminars, the room is very heavy with estrogen; half the room menstruating, the other half in menopause, which means that 50% of the women will be too hot or too cold or both.
Despite the central role women play in healthcare, RockHealth uncovered some stunning statistics about the dirth [sic] of women running startups that are getting funded. Consider that while women compose 73% of medical and health services managers, only 4% of healthcare CEOs were women. In the 2011 Venture Funded Digital Health database that RockHealth created, they looked at organizations who received over $2M in venture funding — zero had a female CEO. So far in 2012, only 3 venture-backed digital health startups who raised 2 million dollars or more had female CEOs. The report also outlines other interesting statistics such as the percentage of TEDMED speakers who were female.”
The report shows the of the 100 women surveyed, almost 50% report a lack of self confidence while about 18% cite lack of education, and about 42% cite no connection with senior leadership; in other words, lack of a mentor.  I would like to add another reason:   Managers of private medical offices, not affiliated with large groups or hospitals, are by and large women who have worked their way up through the ranks of the office and  have no or little formal education, but have decades of experience.  Additionally, managing a medical office is very different from management in a hospital or large practice.  In an office, the manager is the one responsible for making sure that all aspects of the office run efficiently.

Recently, I interviewed for a director position and I was asked to outline all my duties as an office manager.  It came to four pages.  The headings were Compliance, Operational, Human Resources, Site Operations, and Personal Development.  There are very few jobs, with the exception of entrepreneurs, where one person is responsibility for so many important and varied tasks.  In a hospital setting, an executive does one thing, be it Operations, Human Resources, Clinical or Compliance.  When a female manager with only Practice Management experience wants to transition to an Executive Position, their lack of formal education disqualifies them from the position.  If the women attempts to substitute experience for education, the response is that she does not have enough experience in total or not enough experience in the specific job as listed.  This decision is invariably made by a male executive who has never worked in the medical practice sector and thus does not recognize the extreme ability needed to manage a medical office and keep it profitable.
Sue Siegel, CEO of GE’s healthymagination, points out a natural strength that women should be able to tap. “Data shows that women are at the center of healthcare decisions in the family unit and experience the full spectrum of healthcare delivery. As leaders in the healthcare system women bring firsthand views as customers. They can then help define and improve these experiences, making the healthcare system more user friendly, convenient, and efficient. As healthcare professionals, women bring empathy and increased communication skills. This is an industry where women can naturally lead."
While numerous reports over the years demonstrate the lack of women in high level positions across the job spectrum, there are few occupations that are so heavily populated by female workers.  It is for this reason that I find the situation of lack of CEO’s so egregious.  As a female Health Care Executive, I do not have an easy answer except to state that it is time for healthcare to stop looking at the gender of the applicant and instead focus on the qualifications of the candidate.

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