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How women can land more leadership roles in the healthcare sector

There are many competent women in the healthcare sector—and yet, very few of them are in leadership positions.

Photo by amenic181

The World Health Organization emphasizes that women make up about 70% of the global health and care workforce. However, only 25% of these female healthcare professionals are in senior leadership positions. Unfortunately, this immense gap in leadership roles is only one instance of the existing inequalities within the healthcare sector. This blatant inequality does not only affect the morale of female healthcare professionals, it also impacts an institution's performance. One article on gender inequality in biopharma companies revealed that women make up only 6.6% of CEOs in US biopharma companies. Despite this, companies with diverse executive teams have greater financial success and higher levels of innovation. These accomplishments are attributed to the fact that women leaders ensure that inclusivity is extended into healthcare products and services. The healthcare industry will become more inclusive and successful with more female leaders on board. So if you want to rise to the top, here are a few ways to get started:

Invest in upskilling

Professional skills are one of the key considerations for career advancement, so it’s advisable to take up advanced degrees or special programs to widen your skillset. For instance, in nursing—known as a female-dominated field in healthcare—there are plenty of options for continuing studies, especially in higher education institutions. There are online master’s in nursing programs that provide flexibility and accessibility as you prepare yourself for a more specialized career as a nurse practitioner. By completing a master’s program, you can pursue advanced leadership roles in your workplace or even start your own private practice.

On top of that, you can participate in women-only leadership programs, which teach females how to survive and thrive in male-dominated industries. These programs were proven to be effective in increasing leadership competencies and broadening the professional networks of women in healthcare, thus improving their professional growth.

Practice the art of self-promotion

Despite having the right skills and experience, many women fail to express their interest in higher positions. The Female Lead's research on working women revealed that women have been socially conditioned to feel less entitled than men in various areas of their lives. Unfortunately, this creates a lack of confidence when negotiating pay increases and promotions. Participants even expressed that they feel unsure about the parameters of success and their entitlement to promotion. In other words, you could be doing well as a resident healthcare professional in your assigned facility but still doubt your capabilities. As such, aspiring leaders need to practice the act of self-promotion.

When done well, self-promotion can be an effective way of communicating your intention to become a leader within your workplace. Self-promotion encourages you to present yourself as a woman capable of carrying out the responsibilities of their desired role. After all, if you’ve got what it takes, the next step is to believe in yourself.

Seek support from women colleagues

Aside from upskilling and asserting yourself, you also need to unite with the women in your workplace. Female colleagues may seem like competition, especially in a performance-based industry like that of healthcare. However, your solidarity as a team will help increase every woman’s chance of getting recognized and promoted. Creating a network of ambitious women will help raise the number of females in leadership positions.

To illustrate, your network can create a mentorship program aimed at retention, promotion, and leadership. Mentorship programs are proven to be effective in improving retention and promotion rates, as illustrated by a review on women in academic medicine. You can even conduct group mentorship programs to help more women in your workplace. By creating a supportive and encouraging network of women, you can foster the right attitudes and skills in your colleagues so that you will witness more women in leadership positions. You can address the gender gaps in the leadership roles across the healthcare industry by investing in your advancement. Consider enhancing your skillset, practicing self-promotion, and seeking support from female colleagues to promote a more inclusive workplace.

Written by Sydney Barnes

About the author

Sydney Barnes is a full-time startup consultant and a part-time blogger. Though she doesn't work in the healthcare industry, plenty of her family members do. So, she writes about their experiences when she can. She has plenty of respect for healthcare workers, especially now.


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