Breakthroughs from Healthcare Outliers


Our new gender parity research focuses on nine leaders who defied the odds to transform their organization and industry.

Terry Stone

4 min read

Editor's Note: The following is a summary of our new research on what leadership qualities female leaders working in male-dominated industries have in common. Based on interviews with nine female leaders who've defied the odds to break through into the leadership ranks, our research identifies leaders' keys to success and outlines what lessons organizations can learn from their experiences. Read the full report here: Breakthroughs from Healthcare Outliers.

As part of Oliver Wyman and Health Evolution's ongoing Women in Healthcare Leadership series, we wanted to learn more about what female leaders have in common. Consider, for example, the healthcare industry. Here, 80 percent of healthcare consumers are female. But this demographic isn't reflected in leadership. For example, only 30 percent of healthcare's C-suite is female. At healthcare's top ranks, this number shrinks down even more: 13 percent of healthcare CEOs are female and only one in three people in the Profit and Loss (P&L) C-suite are female. 

In an effort to try and close this gap so healthcare consumers' voices are better reflected by the industry decision makers' voices, Oliver Wyman and Health Evolution sat down with nine female leaders from organizations like health plans, pharmaceutical companies, and more to better understand their diverse industry perspectives, rich experiences, and breakthrough leadership styles.

Although our findings clearly don't represent traits all female leaders who've defied the C-suite odds have in common, our team realized upon conducting our research, these women's clear commonalities include strategically embracing the unknown, remaining focused on unified values and visions, and successfully translating their ideas clearly to ultimately empower others along the way.

Our research also examines how our interviewees perceive things like sponsorships, mentors, networking, and the like regarding how factors such as these have shaped their career decisions and greater professional paths toward progress.

 We hope our research inspires other leaders — from those at the top, those on their way to the top, and those beginning to tap into their true potential — to drive the future of an industry in transformation in their own ways.

Six Leadership Traits Women Who Defy the C-Suite Odds Tend to Have in Common:

1. Strategically embrace the unknown

2. Have a different kind of leadership style and philosophy

3. Focus hard on a unified clarity of vision, purpose, and values

4. Translate ideas clearly and empower others along the way

5. Be results-driven, accountable, and unafraid of making hard decisions

6. Stay engaged, nudge others, and coach teams to success

More Key Findings from the Report

  • It interests our interviewees greatly when strategies align across different lines of business and they must pull different levers, all for one greater purpose.
  • Interviewees emphasized their keen innate ability to anticipate and respond to healthcare’s rapid pace of change.
  • When we sought to learn more about what each woman spent most of her workday doing, we found enormous fortitude, resolve, and understanding that was in no way “quiet” or meek but rather was clear, directive, and enabling.
  • These women call themselves empowering leaders (but not empowering for the sake of it). They hold people accountable but are transparent in both their expectations and the decision-making process.

Read our full research here: Breakthroughs from Healthcare Outliers.