How does the healthcare sector stack up on gender equality? To answer that question, we look at pipeline practices, employee experiences, and policies and programs the industry has implemented to promote diversity and inclusion. We also hear from industry leaders on what it takes to accelerate change across the sector.
Women, especially women of color, remain underrepresented in leadership positions, and not only at the highest levels.
Our research for Women in the Workplace, a collaborative initiative between Lean In and McKinsey, attempts to create a definitive fact base on women’s advancement in leadership. In addition to the 33 healthcare companies for which we have pipeline data, we surveyed more than 10,848 employees at 11 healthcare companies and interviewed ten senior executives in North America. Although the data are based on North American research, we believe the insights and implications are relevant globally.
From this research, healthcare appears to be one of the best industries for working women on several dimensions. A broad industry that includes drug and medical-device manufacturers, as well as service providers and payers, healthcare surpasses other industries in female representation. Women hold executive management positions at the highest levels, including Emma Walmsley (CEO of GlaxoSmithKline and the first woman to lead a global pharma company), Gail K. Boudreaux (president and CEO of Anthem), and Laura N. Dietch (president and CEO of BioTrace). There are also many examples of women in healthcare gaining worldwide recognition for their achievements, such as Frances H. Arnold, who in 2018 became the fifth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Women are the primary consumers and decision makers in the healthcare market, and they make up almost 50 percent of the workforce: much of their advancement and leadership in the field rests on those facts.
That said, women, especially women of color, remain underrepresented in leadership positions, and not only at the highest levels. There remain challenges to address in hiring, advancement, and day-to-day experiences that could promote a more flexible and inclusive working culture.
There are good reasons to believe the healthcare industry is one of the best for women. For example, women are better represented at all levels than in other sectors, are promoted at similar rates to men, and report similar career satisfaction. We highlight several reasons to celebrate the sector’s progress on diversity below.
Better representation at all levels
Over 60 percent of employees entering the healthcare industry are women, while across sectors in the United States, women represent an average of just under 50 percent of entry-level employees (Exhibit 1).
Healthcare’s many subsegments are a natural draw for the 50