Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Age of the Female CEO?

The April 18, 2011 issue of Modern Healthcare featured “The Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2011.” 44% of them were executives in hospitals and health care systems – reportedly a significant increase compared with a similar list published two years ago.

The article called to my mind that two institutions with which I am familiar are now headed by women. Nancy Schlichting is CEO of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, where I worked during most of the 1990’s. Trish Hannon is CEO of New England Baptist Hospital in Boston, with which I have had a relationship for some years.

Thinking about that, and at the risk of being accused of sexism, it occurs to me that in the current circumstances women may be particularly well suited to leadership roles in health care institutions. A central challenge facing those institutions is that of uniting the professional and institutional components – mainly doctors and hospitals – and implementing a team approach to care. The main barrier to doing so is apprehension on the part of doctors about becoming subject to the power structure of the hospital.

In the traditional culture of health care, doctors – mostly men - were in charge and nurses – mostly women – were to carry out their orders. But the real world was more complicated than that and so nurses had to develop the skill of influencing physician behavior without having any formal authority to do so.

To the extent that women leaders come from nursing backgrounds – and it seems that many of them do – that skill will stand them in good stead as they cajole doctors away from the independence they learned in school and into their new role as team members.

Also, I suspect that male physicians – and they still dominate the profession – may feel less threatened by women in executive roles than by men. I have no evidence, but experience leads me to that conclusion.

So perhaps the coming years will be the age of the female executive in health care.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

FREE counter and Web statistics from sitetracker.com