What can we do about the gender leadership gap?
As the spring ends and summer begins, there is a flurry of graduation activities. Observing young adults embarking on their chosen path in life can be both exhilarating and inspiring.
Today, many new graduates will be embarking on healthcare and technology careers—two of the most popular career paths—and are bright-eyed and hopeful for the future. But if you look past the surface and ask where they will end up in the next 10 or 20 years, the reality may be shocking. Research indicates that both the healthcare and technology sectors promise to be secure vocations yet have alarmingly wide gender gaps in leadership.
While women comprise almost half the total workforce in the U.S.—47% according to The Advisory Board Company—few hold the highest level positions in healthcare and technology.
Healthcare is a very broad category and includes roles in various areas such as research, clinical trials and nursing, which is an especially popular choice for women. According to RockHealth, more than 75% of the healthcare workforce is made up of women, a three to one ratio, yet very few are in leadership roles.
The same can be said about the technology space. According to The Atlantic, there is a major disparity between men and women across the technology sector. Although more than half of all technology jobs are occupied by women, in computing occupations that figure is only 25% and even lower for executive positions.
So what should be done about the gender leadership gap? There are several practical solutions that can and should be applied to industry sectors where a gap in executive roles exists.
Make a commitment from the top: It is essential to gain buy-in from the top—the owners, the boards, the CEOs and all other positions of power must first learn that a gap exists and make a commitment to close it.
Assess the diversity of your current leadership: By taking an inventory of current positions, you can discover diversity issues and note where the gaps are.
Set realistic goals: Understanding the ratio of men to women in the highest positions and making a commitment to change are both valid first steps. However, in order to realize real change, you need to put goals in place to keep your organization accountable.
Execute a plan: Armed with commitment, knowledge and a plan, the final step is execution. It is critical to put action behind the plan to make progress that is measurable and makes an impact.
Innovation is not an accident and every industry should take a hard look at its hiring practices to ensure a wide variety of individuals are mentored, have access to opportunities and are provided a voice. Diversity matters. Underrepresentation of women in leadership roles can have a negative impact on new ways of thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution and process management, just to name a few. The healthcare and technology sectors simply cannot afford to have limited viewpoints, not when they are rapidly evolving fields that make such a profound impact on our lives.
Ashley Tointon has more than 18 years of patient recruitment and project management experience supporting clinical trials and the pharmaceutical industry. Currently she provides recruitment expertise, strategy and leadership as Principal Consultant of Accelerate Clinical Enrollment LLC. Email comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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