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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:

Women in Healthcare Report: 4% of CEOs, 73% of Managers

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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