XX In Health: Where Are The Women Decision-Makers And Leaders?

“We’re providing a disservice to the economy by not catalyzing and supporting the economy of women that are out there.” - Lesa Michell, Kauffman Foundation By Blake Landau (Blogger, Artemis)

There are 150 million women in the United States, roughly 55% of the population. Considering that there are more women in the U.S. than men, it is curious that the individuals largely making the decisions about women’s bodies are not women.

Women compose a tiny slice of the top in healthcare. Women account for only 4% of healthcare organization CEOs and 18% of hospital CEOs. However women also account for 73% of medical and health services managers.

So where is the female executive influence in healthcare? Where are the female innovators and entrepreneurs in healthcare?

“We have not seen a lot of female-led endeavors coming in,” says Naheed Misfeldt, Venture Partner at Aberdare Ventures, an investment firm in the medical field.

Rock Health, a seed accelerator for health startups, features a range of female thought leaders in this video to spark a conversation around the lack of women at the top of the healthcare industry.

As noted in the video, leadership in healthcare has gotten complacent. Lesa Mitchell, VP for the Kauffman Foundation says, “We’re providing a disservice to the economy by not catalyzing and supporting the economy of women that are out there.”

Why is it taking so long for this to sink in with the healthcare system? The alarms should be going off. The fact that there are no women at the top is an emergency situation. It should be treated with a response rate faster than Hurricane Katrina.

Women Have A Lot To Offer Healthcare

We’ve established the fact that women are the decision makers and purchasers of many households, but we aren’t seeing representation of women at the top.

As PepsiCo VP Nutrition Ventures Dondeenda Bradley says women are “COO of the home. They are in essence on the frontlines.”

Women have an incredible wealth of knowledge and expertise to bring to the table. “Women have an intuition, and women know how to navigate the system,” says Bridget Duffy, CEO of ExperiaHealth.

Intuition, relationship building and empathy are all attributes that create powerful leaders.

But today all too often women don’t feel comfortable leading from their feminine side. Women who are climbing the ladder — often in a room full of men — feel they have to act like men to get the attention of men.

In the video, Stanford Healthy Body Image Program's Executive Director Anne Devereux poses some important questions. She wonders “how are women going to be feminine and authentic in a world where we think that to succeed like a man you need to be like a man.”

The truth is the feminine attributes will help health organizations navigate the hard-pressed discussions between the public and private sectors.

“As healthcare becomes more collaborative, more social more networked that sounds like the perfect landscape for more women… we need to ask ourselves what we’re doing individually to better ourselves, in addition to what are we doing to support other women in very tangible and real ways,” said Donna Cryer, CEO of Cryer Health.

Providing Everyday Tools and Support For Young Women

We’re starting to recognize that we need to develop women at a young age. We need to provide more everyday resources and support for women — not just around topics like how to negotiate a salary, but topics around personal decision-making, self-care, and empowerment.

On the Rock Health blog, there’s a presentation with tips for young women in healthcare. The knowledge bites range from how to deal with Washington to how to be a strong public speaker to how to balance career and family, and so on and so forth. This content supports the notion that empowerment starts from the inside — from working on yourself. Historically there hasn’t been a ton of mindshare and mentoring for between Baby Boomer women and Gen Y women.

This has to start happening. Today. We need to see more tactical tips for women on how to advance in their personal lives and their careers — and how to balance both.

So where are the women? Are they being mentored from a young age? Groomed to be innovators in sciences, technology and medicine? It seems the answer is not really. While there are pockets of positive change happening it’s not happening on the scale it needs to be happening on. But we can change that. We just need to start talking.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Blake Landau is a blogger, speaker and consultant at Artemis. She's worked with brands such as Verizon Wireless on social media, branding, public relations and marketing. She started her career in customer strategy building Customer Management IQ, a social networking site and online business publication. She loves her running, book clubs and living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter at @BlakeLandau.