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Making the Case for Gender Diversity: Women in Healthcare Leadership

By | January 30 th,  2019 | women in leadership, Modern Healthcare, Modern Healthcare Top 25 Women, women leaders, Top 25 Women in Healthcare, leadership traits | 1 Comments

Real-world advice: ‘As more women join boards and demonstrate the value they add, the system will become self- perpetuating,’ says Helena Morrissey



The American people have spoken. A majority want more women leaders in business and politics, even though they also believe women typically have to work harder to prove their skills and have more obstacles on their way to the top. In fact, 54 percent say gender discrimination plays a large role in why there aren’t more women in positions of executive leadership.1


Those are some of the results of a fascinating new study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Their implications are implicit: Pressure is growing for better gender and ethnic diversity in every sphere of public life.1


As longtime sponsors of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare leadership awards curated by Modern Healthcare, we have seen the momentum and the drumbeat growing for this type of sea change. While challenges certainly remain – the number of women who are employed as CEOs of the companies in the S&P 500 is declining instead of increasing – we remain optimistic that transformation is in the offing.


The corporate world can be slow assimilating societal changes, yet society is clamoring for more women in leadership. According to Pew, Americans view women leaders as better than male leaders in:

  • Creating a safe and respectful workplace
  • Valuing people from different backgrounds
  • Considering the societal impacts of major decisions
  • Mentoring young employees
  • Providing fair pay and good benefits

While male leaders get the nod in people’s perceptions that they are better at negotiating profitable deals and taking risks, the value placed on female leaders does not end there. Asked specifically about gender and political leadership, for example, the Pew survey results reveal that women are perceived as stronger in standing up for what they believe in, being honest and ethical, working out compromises, and being compassionate and empathetic.1 Who wouldn’t want to work for leaders like that?


The situation in healthcare

Only 8 of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. have a woman CEO, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Rock Health2, a venture fund dedicated to supporting “companies improving the quality, safety, and accessibility of our healthcare system”.3 While the lack of senior female leadership is not unique to healthcare, it is notable that ...


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Profiles in Leadership: Risk means reward for AAMC's Joanne Conroy

By | May 24 th,  2011 | AAMC, risk, chief healthcare officer, hospital, Modern Healthcare Top 25 Women, Morristown, policy issues, president, University of South Carolina, Blog, CEOs, chair, Joanne Conroy, American Association of Medical Colleges, anesthesiologist, conflicts of interest, physician leadership | Add A Comment

One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)


As long as she can remember, Joanne Conroy has been a risk taker.


But the biggest roll of the dice of her career may have come in 2008, when she resigned as a hospital president to become chief healthcare officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).


Three years later, it’s evident the risk paid off – she’s been honored as one of the top influencers in healthcare.


“I love running a hospital, walking the halls at 2 in the morning,” she says of the 700-bed Morristown Memorial Hospital, part of Atlantic Health, where she served. “Every single day, there are great miracles that happen. But I realized that I could only affect care in a very small area, and even then I could be hamstrung by external forces. I could stay there, or I could actually go where I could be part of change on a national level.”


At the AAMC, she leads CEOs, CMOs and others in discussing readiness for reform and other pressing policy issues.


“At our spring meeting, we had 100 deans and 100 CEOs in the same room talking about two big issues – financial sustainability, and quality and patient safety,” she says. “We spent time drilling it down into educational components we could use to achieve those goals. I had one CEO tell me, ‘The deans and I agree on far more than I thought we would.’ ”


But Conroy and the AAMC have not been afraid to tackle controversial issues head-on as well. Last year, the association concluded its work on conflicts of interest by focusing on clinical care in a 46-page study, “In the Interest of Patients.” It had previously addressed conflicts of interest in medical education and research.


“Let’s say a physician has invented a device,” Conroy says. “He or she receives royalties from sales of the device. What’s the infrastructure so that the physician and the academic medical center where the doctor works do not profit when this device is prescribed for patients there? How is that disclosed to patients? The Mayo Clinic, for example, has a strong policy in this area.”


As she considers her honor at being named one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare, Conroy says one key attribute for up-and-coming female executives is to “lead through influence,” a quality that just about defines her current position. But she also says that being “very skilled at building teams” can be a career catalyst as well.


That’s something she’s done since the birth of her career at the Medical University of South Carolina, where the school recently established the Joanne M. Conroy, M.D. Endowed Chair for Education and Leadership Development. It was and is a testament to a career of firsts – Conroy was the first woman clinical chair, the first female president of the medical staff and the first female president of the state society of anesthesiologists.


When she started as a resident at MUSC, the written anesthesia board exam pass rate was only 50 percent. When Conroy became chief resident, she was determined to make a difference.


“I made my colleagues meet every Sunday for 3 hours to prepare for the written board exams. We had a 100 percent pass rate for written and orals from then on for at least 7 years.”


And the leaders she trained are now running the place.


“That,” Conroy says, “is the only real reward and acknowledgment I need to keep going.

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