A Healthy Perspective

At Kaleidoscope Management Group, we believe that having strong women in positions of leadership is good business. Research is on our side: A recent report from Credit Suisse’s Research Institute shows that businesses where women make up the majority of top management recorded superior sales growth and high returns on investment. There is countless other research to support this thesis.

In reflecting on these trends, we can’t help but wonder: Why does gender diversity at the top help a company’s bottom line? How a diverse management team leads to better business outcomes is certainly subjective. However, we believe there are a number of reasons why strong female leadership in business leads to improved business performance:

  • Diverse perspectives help in decision making. Seeing through a different lens can ultimately help in avoiding risk, identifying threats and anticipating opportunities that would otherwise be missed in a homogeneous group.
  • Several reports indicate that women leaders are better at encouraging teamwork and that gender-diverse teams tend to be more creative, all of which can positively impact overall company performance.
  • Women often are strong communicators. For example, according to this study, by the Journal of the American Medical Association, female physicians tend to engage in more patient-centric communication styles that can lead to better adherence to treatment plans and overall improved patient outcomes.

This speaks to why, perhaps, the healthcare industry in St. Louis — an important sector for the local economy — boasts strong female leadership. In fact, three women from the local healthcare industry ranked in the most recent Top 25 Women in HealthCare by Modern Healthcare. Representing St. Louis on the list were Laura Kaiser, who took the reins as president and CEO of SSM Health last year; Patricia Maryland, who was promoted to president and CEO of Ascension Healthcare last year; and Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the St. Louis-based Catholic Health Association. In addition, Christine Candio, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital in Chesterfield, was named as one of 10 “women to watch” who are advancing healthcare.

While these reports are encouraging, we recognize there is still progress to be made. Women remain vastly underrepresented nationwide in healthcare leadership positions, according to a 2017 report from Rock Health, a seed fund that supports digital health startups. This is in spite of women being majority stakeholders in healthcare — as employees, consumers and caregivers. Women accounted for just 22.6 percent of executive roles at Fortune 500 healthcare companies in 2017, and in the hospital setting, only 11 percent of the CEOs at the nation’s 100 largest hospitals were women. St. Louis ranks above the national average in this category, with women filling 24 percent of the CEO positions at the region’s 25 largest hospitals, according to our research.

Ascension’s Patricia Maryland, recently honored by the Black Women’s Agenda nonprofit organization for her work in health care, said that women in leadership need to be lifting up other strong women. “You can tell who the strong women are,” she said at the BWA’s annual luncheon last year. “They are the ones you see building one another up instead of tearing one another down.” We couldn’t agree more; gender parity — for reasons known and unknown — is the right prescription for a healthy industry.

Written by: Angela Mueller