When Will There Be Enough Women Leaders in Health Care?

By Allison O’Connor, TRUST President

March brings a great deal of excitement! We have the official start of spring on March 20 with dreams of outdoor gatherings soon on the horizon. And importantly, March represents Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.

Women’s History Month was started to celebrate “the vital role of women in American history.” I can’t help but think of women’s vital role in the TRUST’s history. In 1979, our charter members started the 11-15 Club (named after the time of their meetings), which grew into the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST we know today. So many women through the years broke ceilings in the health care industry and helped other women rise. One of those women was Jean Harris, M.D., a respected TRUST member who was a true visionary serving five presidents on health policy. The TRUST established the Jean Harris Award in 2001 in her honor.

International Women’s Day (IWD), held annually on March 8, is a global day that “marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.” This year’s IWD theme is Break the Bias. Their website asks us to “imagine a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.” We’re working hard at the TRUST to create a more inclusive organization and health care industry. We’re committed to our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) work because we can’t truly build women’s equality without bringing diverse backgrounds to the table and breaking down our own biases.

While these events make March a perfect time to give thanks to women in our past who paved leadership roles and to recognize the IDEA work we’re doing, there are 11 more months in the year that need our attention. We still have a long way to go before women compose 50% or more of health care executives.

Data on women’s leadership in health care vary depending on the role and type of organization. Several reports state women make up 65% of U.S. health care workers yet represent only 25-30% of health care executives and 13% of CEOs.1 And statistics for women of color are even further behind. Women of color make up nearly 20% of entry-level health care workers, but only 11% of vice president and senior vice president roles and just 5% of C-suite positions.2

Clearly, women’s leadership is important to the TRUST – it’s in our name, and it’s why we exist! We’ll continue to support and inspire women leaders in health care as we all keep building an industry where leadership by women is commonplace. As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg famously said, “When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

  1. Healthcare IT News
  2. Insight Into Diversity

Allison O’Connor serves as the 2022 TRUST President and is Vice President of Strategy Execution at Lifespark. Allison has also held roles as Board Chair with the American College of Healthcare Executives Minnesota Chapter and Minnesota Rural Health Association, Vice-Chair with Cedar Riverside People’s Center and is a current Board member with American Red Cross North Central Blood Services North Region.