Why has so little progress been made?

Many believe that women take themselves out of the game; that they either lack confidence or don’t want to subject themselves to the politics and game-playing that has historically been necessary to ascend to leadership positions.  In my experience, these factors also contribute to fewer women in the C-suite of healthcare organizations:

Lack of mentors and/or sponsors.  In the Rock Health report referenced above, the majority of women who believed they could be on a leadership track did not have a mentor or sponsor.  Strategic coaching and a sponsor to help navigate the political waters is essential for women to rise through the corporate ranks.

Women are less proficient at the corporate game.  Employees have to be noticed to get ahead; women especially need to make sure they are heard, take credit for their ideas and promote their accomplishments within the organization – all things that few women are comfortable doing.  Women are more likely to believe that hard work will be noticed and rewarded without calling attention to it, that accomplishing the goal is more important that claiming credit for the idea, and that building consensus to move forward is more important than “getting my way”.

Lack of opportunities for advancement and financial rewards.  Women are finding little support at work in terms of formal programs for leadership development, mentoring or the skills development necessary to move to the next level.  And of course, the pay disparity between men and women exists in nearly every occupation.  We have barely seen any movement in more than a decade: women are still paid 78% of what men make.

Lack of self-confidence.  The book Womenomics: Work Less, Achieve More, Live Better, references studies showing that women believe they must have 100% of the qualifications for a given position or they will not apply;  men believe they only need to meet 50% of the requirements of a new position. Many times the qualifications for a position or even the path that leads to that position are different for male and female candidates. Research reported in books like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In suggest that women consistently underestimate their own abilities.

Women do not negotiate well.  Or they are reluctant to ask for what they want.  Also in Lean In, Sandberg cites a study showing that 57% of men negotiate their salary when accepting a new position, while only 7% of women try to negotiate.  Old adage:  “You don’t ask…you don’t get”.  Women need to ask for what they want.

What to do?

There are some things that organizations must to do raise awareness in the healthcare workplace and key things that women can do to help themselves. Watch for Part 2 of this article in a few weeks!


Vicki Schroeder is President of VSE Healthcare Consulting, providing unique value resulting from years of extensive experience leading and managing national, international and regional operations within healthcare organizations.