Leading Ladies: Women as Physician Leaders


“Women are leaders everywhere you look, from a CEO to a housewife that holds together a home. Our country was built by women who stand alone.” -Denise Clark

Medicine has traditionally been a male driven field. Sure, the majority of nurses in our country have been women since the early turn of the century, but we never saw the same representation of ladies in the physician field. However, the demographics are changing and more women than ever are gracing med schools, hospitals, facilities, clinics, and other practices across the country. Women actually are making nearly 50% of medical school populations according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

But, despite the growing levels of female representation that continue to fill our nation’s healthcare system; there’s one place where they are lagging behind. Apparently despite a demographic shift, less than 1/5th of the deans of medical schools, chairs of departments, division chiefs, and CEOs of hospitals in the US. In other words, less than 20% of women held some sort of leadership title in the very top of the spectrum.

Women are still very low on the amount of practitioners that have been seen in more leadership-centric roles. Medscape’s Women as Physician Leaders Report showed that of the 3,285 female physicians of various specialties that surveyed (1764 reported being in leadership roles, 1521 did not report being in a leadership role.)

A Breakdown of Female Physician Leader Job Titles

The highest percentage of female physician leader roles was medical directors, among the women who reported themselves as holding a leadership position. According to the American College of Physician Executives and Ceijka Search, their 2008 survey reported that approximately 40% of physician executives were in the title medical director.

However, despite the modern increase in number of females actually attending medical school, far less are actually working in their academic medical faculties. The Association of American Medical Colleges reported in 2014 that women only make up 15% of permanent department chair positions and 16% dean positions.

The Important of Overall Leadership in Medical Careers

The survey found that a vast majority of the women holding leadership roles attributed their success to excelling at their job (72%.) Non-leaders felt that building alliances, gaining support from peers, and inspiration from female physician role models were ways they might be able to attain a future leadership title. Therefore, we can see that women view women above them as positive influences more than the males above them as they feel support of role models, peers, and mentors can positively affect them in their medical careers.

Challenged Finding Leadership Positions

For women who are not currently in physician leadership roles, they have a seemingly different viewpoint on some of the reasons for limitations they might be experiencing some sort of gender bias in the workplace or political bickering. However, for the females that currently serve in roles of leadership, they are less likely to feel that their gender help them back professionally. Not having enough time to get things done was the main concern for leaders.

Should Females Break the Glass Ceiling by Asking for Promotion?

About half of the women who asked for a promotion reported receiving it. I guess, ask and you shall receive—-but only half the time. Non-leaders were more likely to ask for a raise.

Author: AllPhysicianJobs.com

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