Significant Pay Gap Between Male, Female Healthcare Leaders

Laura Joszt

A new survey found striking differences between female and male healthcare leaders in their career paths, earnings, support and views on barriers to career advancement.

The compensation for female healthcare leaders is significantly lower than their male counterparts, possibly because they were more likely to face barriers to their careers, according to a new study.

The Healthcare Leadership and Gender study by the Diversified Search Healthcare Practice and the Women’s Leadership Center at Kennesaw State University examined gender differences in the career experiences of healthcare leaders like C-suite leaders, vice presidents and directors. The study revealed that compensation for women was, on average, 35% lower than for men in similar positions.

Men and women in these positions are typically coming from very different backgrounds. Two-thirds of males worked in medicine, finance or general administration, while 44% of women have nursing backgrounds. According to Diversified Search, women were more likely to be promoted from within their organizations, while men are hired from outside. Both of these distinctions are likely to contribute to the difference in compensation.

The pay gap “may reflect the type of experience they bring to the table as well as the perceived value of external candidates versus internal candidates,” according to Diversified Search.

Women reported many challenges to career advancement. Significantly more women healthcare leaders said things like lack of supportive supervisors, exclusion from informal networks, lack of senior role models, inhospitable culture/biased attitudes, and failure of senior leadership to help in advancement were all barriers to their careers. Women also noted a challenge was the need to prioritize family over work.

“The culture of the organization is clearly important to women and they feel that if the environment is exclusionary, it will hold them back in their careers,” Diversified reported.

The sorts of factors that women were more likely than men to cite as being helpful to their careers were: access to flexible work practices, support from family members, networking within their organizations, leadership abilities, involvement in professional/community groups and having sponsors endorse them.

Given the factors that women cited has been helpful or detrimental it’s clear that many female healthcare leaders still struggle with balancing a family and a career, and often they are the primary manager of their families.

The survey participants included 157 female and 125 male leaders working for healthcare systems, hospitals, medical centers and other types of facilities throughout the US.