Speaker Panel Details Personal Experience with Diversity Disparity in Health Care

Women outnumber men in the allied health care professions but are still significantly underrepresented in leadership roles within the health care industry. During a session at AMCP Nexus 2020 Virtual, five female panelists who have advanced to executive levels in managed care pharmacy, health care recruiting, and the pharmaceutical industry discussed their personal experiences and best practices in support of gender equity.

Diane Giaquinta, PharmD, FAMCP, vice president of market access research at Ashfield Market Access, began the session by providing background data related to gaps in gender and ethnic diversity. Data from LeanIn.org and McKinsey&Co. indicate that the health care services industry has the highest percentage of women working in entry level roles (75% of employees in a sample of 22 large hospital systems and direct-care providers). Only 33% of positions at the C-suite level are filled by women, with only 1% of female CEOs in the health care industry. In addition, women of color are severely impacted, representing just 6% of positions at the C-suite level.

A study by Equilar Inc., a research firm that collects data on executives and boards, showed that women are underrepresented in jobs that are considered pipelines to the CEO role, which could explain the gender gap at the highest levels. Roles with profit-and-loss (P&L) responsibilities, such as heading a division, unit, or brand, have been the traditional steppingstones to the CEO position. Women usually fill roles such as head of human resources, administration, or legal, which do not have profit-generating responsibility.

Challenges and barriers women face include lack of detailed information on career paths to P&L roles, lack of encouragement to consider P&L roles, early professional tradeoffs, work-life constraints, deficiency of a strategic network for career guidance, insufficient leadership development programs, and entrenched attitudes concerning women in power. There is the potential for an even wider gap, as women are leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 2019 study of more than 3,000 professionals by Working Mother Research Institute and the National Association for Female Executives suggests men and women receive very different career-building cues. Men were three times more likely to have been encouraged to consider a P&L role and twice more likely to have been promoted or selected for leadership training in the past two years. Nearly 50% of men reported getting detailed advice at work on how to chart the path to a P&L job compared with 15% of women.

Five ways women can position themselves for leadership roles include:

  1. Bring your voice to the table.
  2. Practice self-promotion.
  3. Do not be afraid to take risks.
  4. Practice conscious communication.
  5. Take time to network and be creative.

Dr. Giaquinta was then joined by the panel that included Deanna Banks BSc, principal at Furst Group; Kristi Bochniak, RN, MSN, MBA, head of U.S. market access general medicines account team at Sanofi; Mona Chitre, PharmD, chief pharmacy officer and vice president of clinical analytics, strategy, and innovation at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield; Sharon M. Montgomery, RPh, MA, principal advisor at Confidio; and Norrie Thomas BS, MS, PhD, adjunct professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota Center for Leading Healthcare Change and executive vice president of ActiveRadar.

Common themes in the panel’s career experiences included mentors—both male and female—passion in work, creating their own value story, networking, stepping outside their comfort zone, strategic thinking, broadening their horizons, finding their tribe, and finding their confidence.

Ms. Bochniak said their organization put a formal mentoring program into place, but without that option, she recommends picking a mentor who has a role that you aspire to—this is a more traditional approach—as well as thinking of someone who is in a different role but has a part or aspect of the business you are interested in. “As a mentee, you own that relationship. It’s really important to think about what you’re hoping to get it out of it, so you can own those conversations … and the dialogue is really rich,” she said.

When asked which traits or competencies are most important for success, some answers included communication skills, eagerness for knowledge, technical expertise, authenticity, being trustworthy and trusting, championing others to succeed, drive, and resilience.

“I’m unapologetic for my passion and body of work. If my passion is reinforcing my credibility and capability and I can still inspire others, I don’t feel the need to have to conform to what others believe I should be,” said Ms. Banks when the panel discussed how women can show their passion without being perceived as emotional or aggressive.

Dr. Chitre talked about how to have discussions about fair compensation, which should be “fact-based. Understand what your value is and what you bring to the table, but do your homework. Know what the market rate is. That has been helpful for me,” she said. Ms. Banks advised having relationships with recruiters to help find this compensation data and link up with employers. Dr. Thomas added, “Don’t be afraid to tie your compensation to revenue.”

When discussing how to navigate the workforce and motherhood, including maternity leave, Ms. Montgomery said, “Pregnancy is part of our life and journey. Plan your career the way you want [it] to go. If you’re planning a family at the same time, know what the policies are. Keep your managers abreast when you get pregnant and that you plan to take leave. Be proactive about managing your workload.”

“Learn to structure things so they work for you. … We tend to look at our male counterparts and compare ourselves. I don’t feel that way [now],” advised Ms. Banks.

Presentation: H1 Practical Applications to Close Gender and Diversity Gaps in Health Care Leadership. AMCP Nexus 2020 Virtual.