Women in Leadership
This month, a record number of women were sworn in as members of the US Congress. There are now 102 women represented in the House of Representatives — up from 23 in 1987 — and 23 women in the U.S. Senate.
That’s nearly 29 percent of federal lawmakers.
The numbers are not that much different in healthcare. Nearly 80 percent of workers in the health care and social assistance field are women, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, we know that women are underrepresented in the C-Suite and in other leadership roles in our hospitals.
So, why are more men than women in Congress and in the hospital C-Suite? This is not because women are less capable. A recent study from Pew Research Center shows that most people — men and women — believe men have an easier path to leadership.
We, as health care leaders, have a unique opportunity to help prepare women for leadership roles within our organizations.
Our first step is to recognize the need to educate women in the art of leadership — training that may have been more accessible to their male peers. Our second step is to make a point to identify potential female leaders in our organizations and assist them in seeking out skills training that may help them reach the next level.
I am suggesting that we need to actively assist them because just offering an opportunity may not get us the results we seek. If it is true (and the research says it is) that women are less likely to ask for better opportunities then it is reasonable to assume that HOW we offer this opportunity may play a role in whether or not eligible women take advantage of it. If we just “toss it out there” to see where it lands and expect all who should take advantage to do so, we may be disappointed. A better approach is to individually seek out those women who we believe are qualified and can use this opportunity to discuss why we believe participation is important. By doing this we are sanctioning them, allowing them to recognize their skills and giving them the permission they may want/need to pursue the opportunity.
One key skill many women would benefit by learning is how to negotiate effectively. Not being able to do so often results in delayed career advancement and underutilization of skills.
Teaching women the art of negotiation will help them understand how to request opportunities and resources and, become their own best advocates.
If you’re interested in learning more about women in leadership, the Maryland Healthcare Education Institute is holding a Women and the Power of Negotiation workshop on April 4. For details, click here.