Three female hospital leaders talk about what leadership means to them

By Katie Pearson, Lynn Jackson and Carolyn Booker

Two years after a study found that only 15% of CEO positions in mid-sized hospitals in the US were held by women, there was a surge of women taking on leadership positions in hospitals.

The emphasis on diverse leadership candidates, mentoring and training programs, and diverse hiring goals – which many healthcare organizations have prioritized – have paved the way for more women to aspire to and accept roles in hospital leadership positions. Yet the subtle gender bias that courses through organizations and society can disrupt the motivation and development of future female leaders.

As three female hospital leaders at the helm of one of the largest and most decorated hospital systems in Georgia, Northside Hospital, we know intimately the challenges and rewards this journey presents. In this article, we share our perspective on the qualities that make great leaders, advice for the next generation of women aspiring to leadership roles, and the importance of gender equality in leadership roles.

Carolyn Boeker

Empathy, kindness and hospital culture

Carolyn Boeker:

Leaders must be empathetic and connect with staff experiences to build trust and increase well-being in the workplace. Different perspectives and ideas trump the unique, self-interested alternative. There is a need for diversity in leadership, especially in hospitals, where problem-solving and critical thinking can be used to improve the health of a community made up of different races, genders and ethnicities.

In 2018, I started a hospital-based Kindness initiative as a way to improve the work environment and create a place of healing for staff and patients. The initiative has been a great success and stems from the adoption of leadership. For example, every month at our Patient Care Council we ask leaders to visit different departments and ask staff to nominate a colleague for recognition and give the reason. The managers immediately share the positive feedback with that colleague, which has an immediate positive impact on the recognized employee. This is one of the many facets of the Kindness Initiative that has fueled an improvement in our culture.