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Women in leadership: Three female hospital leaders share what leadership means to them

April 22, 2024
Business Affairs
By Katie Pearson, Lynn Jackson, and Carolyn Booker

A surge of women earning hospital leadership positions has occurred two years after a study found only 15% of CEO positions at mid-size hospitals in the U.S. were held by women.

The insistence on diverse leadership candidates, mentoring and training programs, and diverse hiring goals—which many health care organizations have prioritized—have laid a path for more women aspiring to and accepting roles in hospital leadership positions. Still, the subtle gender bias that flows through organizations and society can disrupt motivation and development of future female leaders.

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

Carolyn Booker
Empathy, kindness, and hospital culture
Carolyn Booker:
Leaders must be empathetic and begin to connect with the experiences of staff in order to engender trust and increase workplace wellbeing. Different perspectives and ideas stand above the singular, self-serving alternative. There is a need for diversity in leadership, especially in hospitals, where problem-solving and critical thinking can be leveraged to better 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 leadership adoption. For example, every month at our Patient Care Council we ask leaders to visit different units and ask staff to identify a coworker for recognition and provide the reason. The leaders directly share the positive feedback with that colleague, which has an immediately positive impact on the recognized employee. This is one of the many facets of the Kindness Initiative that have fueled an improvement in our culture.

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