Imelda Dacones, MD, shares how physicians can help close the leadership gender gap

Northwest Permanente President and CEO Imelda Dacones, MD, Friday wrote on MedPage Today that while the percentage of women physicians has grown 43% over the past decade, that increase isn’t helping to close the gender gap at the leadership level.

Headshot of Imelda Dacones, MD
Imelda Dacones, MD

“In the U.S., women lead just 20% of hospitals and a mere 4% of health care companies, even though nearly 8 in 10 American health care workers are women,” Dr. Dacones wrote. “For women of color, the statistics are even worse. They account for nearly 20% of entry-level health are jobs in the U.S. and only 5% of C-suite positions.”

She pointed to several reason for advancing women as leaders. For example, in addition to providing individuals from underrepresented groups with opportunities for advancement, the makeup of a leadership team plays a significant role in developing and executing strategies to achieve equity for the patients and communities that health care organizations serve.

“Patients, clinicians, and staff need to see women doctors, including those from underrepresented groups, leading other doctors,” she added.

To help level the playing field, Dr. Dacones suggests 4 concrete steps that physicians can take:

  • Make the business case. Several studies, including an extensive study by Pepperdine University, show that companies with women in leadership positions are more profitable than those without.
  • Advocate for board-level engagement. Boards have the power to champion the hiring, mentoring, and promotion of women in the workplace.
  • Raise awareness. Encourage sponsors and mentors to advocate for reform to address equity, inclusion, and diversity at the institutional level.
  • Address unconscious biases across the organization. Offer training and surveys that invite people, under the protection of anonymity, to share how they have observed or experienced inequity and bias.

“Organizations need to understand that more diversity at the top leads to better leadership and business outcomes,” Dr. Dacones wrote. “To set and stay the course will take the commitment of organizations and the persistence of the women and men who comprise them.”

Note: To read the entire article, visit MedPage Today.