Men and Women Disagree on What It Takes to Lead Healthcare Companies

Oct 28, 2019

Las Vegas…. Men and women think very differently about what qualities leaders should have according to a new report from Oliver Wyman which was launched today at HLTH.  This is one major reason for the lack of women in healthcare leadership positions -- despite representing 80 percent of buying decisions and 65 percent of the workforce in the US.

Senior and junior men and women across the healthcare industry were asked to pick attributes such as communication skills, commitment, vision and emotional intelligence to best describe leaders. Results show that women value an emotionally intelligent, communicative leader while men value a commanding leader with 60 percent of women valuing emotional intelligence in a leader – compared to only 35 percent of men.

The report titled “Women as the Heartbeat of Healthcare” highlights several other key findings: 

  • A majority (66 percent) of women believe they personally have a high commitment to advancing women but only 27 percent believe their company does
  • Only 50 percent of employees find informal mentorship effective and 32 percent find formal sponsorships effective in advancing women in leadership positions
  • Thirty-nine percent of men feel complete support to improve the representation of women in leadership; while only 21 percent of senior women feel the same

“When considering women for leadership roles, both genders must be more open to how different leadership styles propel more men forward in their careers. It’s also a time to consider that diversity of perspectives and ideas is essential to innovation,” said Helen Leis, Oliver Wyman partner who shared the findings in the opening remarks at HLTH. “With more transparency on what leadership attributes healthcare companies are seeking, the next step needs to be making programs and support systems to advance women which are more aligned and more effective. There’s clearly room for improvement.”

The report provides three key recommendations to tackle the “invisible” barriers to have more women in healthcare leadership including: 

  • Commit to mentorships and sponsorships that engage employees in new ways and build natural connections. Organizations also need to measure processes that enable affinity.
  • Provide senior-level support to those personally invested in diversity.

  • Define what leadership attributes your organization values and recognize genders disagree about what qualifies as “good” leadership.

The report is the second in a series focused on women in healthcare leadership.  The initial report titled Women in Healthcare Leadership was launched in January and identified five unintended leadership barriers women face when trying to move to the c-suite.

About the report

This survey was fielded in June and July of 2019 by Zogby Analytics. 529 individuals were surveyed across a variety of healthcare companies, including health insurance companies, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, health tech companies, and industry associations. The sample included 298 women and 222 men, 7 individuals who declined to answer, and 2 who identified as neither male nor female. For overall statistics, we used the full sample, but only used individuals who identified as male or female when comparisons between these two groups were made. 274 individuals identified themselves as director level or below, 97 as vice presidents, 47 as senior vice presidents, 88 as C-Suite, and 23 as board members. For comparisons of senior versus junior individuals, we defined junior as director and below and senior as senior vice president and above to ensure a stark contrast.

About Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman is a global leader in management consulting. With offices in 60 cities across 29 countries, Oliver Wyman combines deep industry knowledge with specialized expertise in strategy, operations, risk management, and organization transformation. The firm has more than 5,000 professionals around the world who work with clients to optimize their business, improve their operations and risk profile, and accelerate their organizational performance to seize the most attractive opportunities. Oliver Wyman is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies [NYSE: MMC]. For more information, visit Follow Oliver Wyman on Twitter @Oliver Wyman.