Senior Client Partner and Sector Leader, Healthcare Board Services
A diverse workforce needs inclusive leaders
Associate Client Partner Cecilia Pinzón talks inclusive leadership and what constitutes an inclusive leader.
The diagnosis for healthcare today is concerning: healthcare boards need more women.
There are many benefits of female board members for healthcare organizations. Gender diversity on healthcare boards accelerates innovation, creates greater revenue, improves corporate governance and enhances crisis management. For example, organizations where women held a third of board seats have generally outperformed their peers during the COVID-19 crisis.
But, despite the obvious benefits of women on healthcare boards, healthcare organizations are lagging on board gender equity. Below are the current statistics on gender bias in healthcare boards:
Fortunately, organizations can start improving gender equity on their boards today. Here are seven steps you can take to ensure you have a proper balance of women on healthcare boards.
High-performing boards that are free of gender bias in healthcare promote diversity, enable their members to reach their potential and work effectively in teams. Use the three questions below to determine whether your board is meeting these goals.
The first step toward gender equity is not to recruit women on healthcare boards. It’s making gender equity part of your overall strategy so you have evidence of your commitment.
Look at your organization’s mission, vision and values. Ensure that you’re recruiting potential board members who support your core strategic imperatives and mesh with your organization’s values. Train everyone to recognize that gender equity can help fulfill your mission and vision and align with your strategy.
First, you must understand what gender equity goals are realistic for your board to achieve. To learn where your board is and where it can go, ask a series of questions:
As you build your plan, include an assessment of your board’s strengths, challenges, opportunities, gaps and needs. Make sure the plan also sets reasonable goals, outlines your strategies and sets metrics for measuring your progress. Finally, the plan should include steps for implementation as well as communication strategies and tactics.
You can’t go it alone when you’re trying to recruit qualified women on healthcare boards . You’ll need recommendations from an executive search consultant or a broad range of stakeholders, including donors, community leaders, staff and industry experts.
When you implement change, you may find that it generates tension or backlash from board members. It can help to bring in a facilitator to confront the board’s anxiety about change and surface hidden gender biases. The facilitator may recommend strategies to deal with board members’ feelings of rejection, exclusion, isolation and abandonment. And they may suggest strategies to reduce friction, such as setting term limits or appointing lifetime or emeritus board members.
Women on healthcare boards often face roadblocks that prevent them from contributing fully to an organization. Traditionally, women have been assigned work in human resources, community outreach, public relations and design. And boards typically turn to female members when they need to address women’s needs, priorities and preferences. But boards need to shed this traditional viewpoint and recognize that there are many more benefits of female board members.
Healthcare boards need to recognize that women are well-qualified to address every area that healthcare boards touch, including finance, reimbursement, regulation, technology, quality and crisis management. And, while women board members are a valid touchpoint for women’s health needs, they bring much more to the table. They may serve as an early warning system for gender bias, discrimination and unintended exclusion or marginalization.
Female board members may also shed light on other problems such as these:
The C-suite sets the tone at the top when it comes to promoting the inclusion of women throughout the organization. Here are issues that healthcare CEOs should consider.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your management and leadership. Do your executives and managers unlock the potential of women employees and empower them to take charge of their careers? Have they embedded diversity, equity and inclusion strategies into their culture? Do they regularly promote diversity, equity and inclusion in routine interactions with their team members?
Next, review your policies, procedures and processes. Do your recruitment, hiring, development and promotion policies promote fairness and gender equity, or do they create roadblocks to advancement? How do your recruitment, onboarding, mentoring, development, promotion and compensation practices champion or compromise gender equity? How does conscious or unconscious bias hamper women?
A change management plan can drive the adoption of your efforts to support gender equity in healthcare. Your plan should include several elements:
Building gender equity will yield long-term benefits for healthcare boards. With a stronger complement of female members on healthcare boards, your board will demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. You’ll also open new pathways to service development, market expansion, crisis management and digital transformation.
To learn more about the benefits of female healthcare board members, download our Memo to the C-suite: Build a board grounded in gender equity. And for help promoting gender equity on your healthcare board, get in touch.