Survey of Women in Health Care: Leadership Barriers Intact

By AAPL Staff
July 27, 2018

Interviews with more than 600 women reflect ongoing concern about the glass ceiling and overdue changes to a culture of implicit bias.

Women still aren’t making a big dent in the occupancy of health care C-suites, and longtime obstacles remain on their ladder to leadership positions, according to a wide-ranging survey of more than 600 women in the industry.

The survey by Rock Health, a venture fund dedicated to digital health, shows the number of women in health care leadership remained flat from 2015 to early 2018, hovering around 20 percent. A slight increase was revealed on the boards of Fortune 500 health care companies, digital health venture capital partners and digital health startup CEOs.

The report also shows that most women think gender parity won’t happen for at least another generation – perhaps 25 years or more.

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Other survey findings reflected the benefits women executives bring to organizations and ongoing concern about implicit bias:

  • Women in companies with fewer than 10 employees or more than 1,000 were more likely to agree their employers adopted a supportive environment for women in leadership. Researchers surmised the smaller companies closely control the culture, while larger ones can afford to develop strong diversity programs.
  • The number of women in leadership was cited as a possible indicator of company culture. Research shows companies with higher percentages of women executives are rated higher by employees.
  • Most respondents identify age as a barrier to advancement. Women in their 20s report being judged for a lack of experience, those 30 to 39 cite “family obligations” and “time constraints,” and those older than 50 blame “age discrimination.”
  • Geography is “very much” a barrier, the survey says, with women in the U.S. Northeast least likely to find limits on advancement (18 percent), compared with 27 percent for the rest of the country (23 percent in the West, 31 percent in the Midwest and 36 percent in the South).
  • Women of color face additional impediments to promotion. The survey found 86 percent of African-American women, 52 percent of Asian and Asian-American women, and 49 percent of Hispanic and Latina women said race is "very much" a barrier.

Survey respondents also answered on behavioral issues, including efforts to stop sexual harassment and a warning for women that adopt “behaviors that resemble their male colleagues” in an attempt to stand out.

RELATED: Women in Medicine Shout #MeToo About Sexual Harassment at Work

“While we slowly chip away at the overt actions that plagued the Mad Men generation, we are still faced with a more covert discrimination that’s harder to identify, name, and resolve,” the authors wrote.

Another concern was women intentionally derailing or bullying other women. “Research from the Workplace Bullying Institute shows that while women only make up 31 [percent] of office bullies, they are more likely to target other women (whereas men target both genders at nearly the same rate),” the authors wrote.

Rock Health’s survey of 636 women in health care was marketed through social media and direct emails from May 14 to June 15, 2018. Only responses from people who disclosed their identity as a woman were included in the analysis.

To read the entire Rock Health report, click here.

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