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Drive Innovation October 31, 2019

Women As The Heartbeat Of Healthcare

Partner, Health & Life Sciences, Oliver Wyman
Managing Partner, Health & Life Sciences, and Global Chair for I&D, Oliver Wyman
Principal, Oliver Wyman

Editor's Note: Oliver Wyman and HLTH partnered to uncover the invisible barriers to gender parity that can hinder growth and innovation through a survey of 500 healthcare professionals with various roles and responsibilities. Our research was launched at this year's HLTH conference in Las Vegas.

Healthcare is an industry where women make 80 percent of buying and usage decisions and are 65 percent of the workforce. Yet women are underrepresented in healthcare’s leadership, making up 30 percent of C-suite teams and 13 percent of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). When women do reach CEO, it takes three to five years years longer. We don’t have a “women in healthcare” problem, but a “women in healthcare leadership” problem. 

Oliver Wyman and HLTH partnered to uncover the invisible barriers to gender parity that can hinder growth and innovation through a survey of 500 healthcare professionals with various roles and responsibilities.

What's Holding Things Back, And What Can We Do About It

The biggest barrier to diverse leadership is…invisible. We’re all naturally susceptible to unconscious biases that impact our perceptions. We found affinity is a powerful builder of trust-based relationships. Our latest research aims to increase visibility about leadership perceptions and gender diversity programs’ effectiveness.

The Four Things We Learned

1. Junior women aren’t benefitting from mentorship and sponsorship opportunities. Senior women, although well-intended, think these efforts are more successful than they actually are. Most men believe initiatives to advance women in the workplace are effective. And we know many that are. But most women disagree.

2. People are personally committed to advancing gender parity. But few think their company is, too – a disconnect driven by women.

3. Women feel less support driving female leadership initiatives. Twice as many senior men than senior women feel “complete support.” But men feel more pressure.

4. Women value an emotionally intelligent, communicative leader. Men value a commanding leader. This suggests different perceptions about what leadership skills are most important for advancement.

Three Ways to Tackle Invisible Barriers

1. Commit to mentorships and sponsorships that engage employees in new ways. Build natural connections. Measure processes that enable affinity.

2. Provide senior-level support to those personally invested in diversity. And realize that men and women may feel supported in their gender partity efforts differently depending on gender.

3. Define what leadership attributes your organization values. Recognize genders disagree about “good” leadership.

Read our survey results via an interactive experience here.

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