It is no secret that women bring unique perspectives to decision making, whether it is about finance, business, work-life balance or myriad other issues that impact every organization’s operations. But in 2022, only 35 percent of working women held leadership positions in their organizations, even though they make up more than one-half of the workforce.
Over the past several decades, women have broken glass ceilings to make way for more opportunities for other women to rise through the ranks, but the data makes it abundantly clear that more must be done.
Healthcare is no exception. Many of this sector’s front-line workers are women. Leaders in healthcare bear the responsibility to provide opportunities for female employees to rise through the ranks, but it is also up to these emerging leaders to take action to accelerate their own growth.
In general, women are hesitant to take on new challenges. Research shows that women apply for 20 percent fewer jobs than men, largely because female candidates believe they must meet 100 percent of the criteria posted in a job description to qualify. This scenario is a stark contrast to men, who are more likely to apply for the same job even if they only meet 60 percent of the criteria.
Women hoping to move up the ladder must adopt a “Why not me?” mentality, rather than putting themselves in smaller boxes to meet others’ expectations. This statement is also true for day-to-day workplace operations.
If women have family obligations and need to leave work by a certain time to pick kids up from school or if they opt to work from home because a child is sick, they must become more comfortable with voicing their needs. Speaking up does not diminish a woman’s worth to the organization.
By beginning to cultivate a culture where women set clear boundaries between their work and personal lives, they start to pave the way for future female leaders to make their voices heard.
Networks and mentors
Mentorships are powerful tools for the mentee and the mentor. Mentorships allow mentees to learn how to grow into their roles and flourish as leaders. At the same time, these relationships can build a pipeline of talent mentors can call on when new opportunities arise.
Healthcare facility managers can begin their mentor journey by becoming preceptors. This experience can help established leaders grow while they continue investing time and energy in shaping the next generation of the workforce.
Women must lean into other female leaders and professionals around them, both inside and outside of companies. Building these relationships is key to creating paths for other women to rise through the ranks and take on senior roles in organizations.
Knowledge is power
The old saying, “Knowledge is power” remains true today. The further women’s careers progress, the more they must hold onto that thirst for learning and gaining new skills. Women do not have to go back to school or invest thousands of dollars in new degrees or certifications. They can begin simply by identifying an area in the organization that needs added support.
Does the emergency management team need another set of hands? Does the facility’s supply chain have a snag that needs to be ironed out? Are leaders seeking subject matter experts in niche healthcare operations women are passionate about?
Women need to raise their hands. Even if those tasks are not something a woman has done before, having the confidence to volunteer creates another new opportunity to add to her growing expertise. Figuring out how to tackle new obstacles can unlock the ability to provide immense value to the team and allow her to gain new skills.
For example, a nurse might want to move into an administrative leadership role in the healthcare system. The bulk of their experience might be bedside, but they have picked up numerous skills in their careers that are readily transferable to other positions.
They can work with other people from a range of backgrounds, are adept at thinking quickly on their feet and can prioritize when managing multiple priorities at once. They also have a wealth of institutional knowledge about healthcare workers’ day-to-day roles – a vital resource when it comes to making decisions that directly impact front-line employees.
Do they have the exact career progression expected with the job posting? Maybe not, but their combination of skills and experiences might make them highly qualified for future leadership roles in many areas of healthcare.
For health systems to make decisions that lead to the most impactful results, women must continue to break down barriers for other women to rise through the ranks. Women have made tremendous strides in this venture, but it is up to all women to ensure they continue to build momentum for generations to come.
Sara Barker is vice president of corporate support services for Medxcel and participates in the firm’s executive team. Helen Johnson is president of Sparrow Eaton Hospital in Charlotte, Michigan.