January 16th, 2014
Do women in the healthcare industry really hit a glass ceiling? The recent announcement of Mary Barra as CEO of GM kicked off a plethora of articles asking that question. Certainly the statistics seemed to support this notion. Overall, women currently hold 8% of the Fortune 100 CEO positions, and slightly over 4% of Fortune 500 and 1000 positions.
GM’s announcement reminded me of the study we conducted 10 years ago, for Women in High Places: Leading the Global Challenge of Medicine (WHIP). At that time, out of over 1,500 organizations, fewer than 9% of healthcare companies and 5% of academic/research medical institutions in the USA had women in the top three levels of the company (starting with corporate VP levels or full professorships), with nary a female CEO in sight.
Glass ceiling? No. Taking a closer look, we found that there was not so much a glass ceiling, as a fog bank at the bottom. To make matters worse, the WHIP study found that one-third of women qualified for that first critical position as a first-line manager in industry or as a research fellow or assistant professor. There was, indeed, de facto discrimination.