Why Aren’t There More Women at the Top?

In life, I have become used to being the “only one” in the room. The only woman. The only African-American. The only person from Kansas. I walk into most meetings and the room is full of men. I feel right at home … being the only one.

Ideally, I would like to look around in meetings and see a little similarity. 

Studies show that having women in leadership roles enriches a company’s point-of-view and supports success on all levels. Knowing this, US Acute Care Solutions has made a point of seeking out more gender diversity at the top. The company supports a yearly women’s forum – a wonderful day of thoughtful discussion filled with women leaders from both inside and outside of the company. This year’s forum was singularly inspiring.

One panelist, Dora Hughes, M.D., M.P.H., recalled former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who when asked whether she was up to the challenge of being vice president replied, “yes,” without blinking. The anecdote is instructive because in retrospect, it’s pretty clear that Palin was in fact not up to the job. But she had the ambition, confidence and conviction to move forward without pause.

That sort of ambition is often lacking in women who are more than capable of assuming top leadership roles. I see amazing women at every patient encounter and company gathering, and yet, when I walk into the room in leadership meetings, there I am again, the only one or one of very few.

A Matter of Perception

What’s holding so many phenomenal women back? I believe it’s mostly a matter of perception that leadership will be an all-consuming, overbearing task-master. Or, perhaps, a perception that their voices won’t be heard. In effect, they may feel that the whole undertaking is too much of a hassle, where the worthwhileness of their work will be unclear.

The unfortunate truth is that many women hesitate before assuming leadership roles whereas men simply don’t.

Showcasing Women in Leadership

The goal of the women’s forum, in part, is to showcase women who leapt in to leadership roles with success. The women present at this year’s forum made it abundantly clear that leadership is its own reward. Being heard is a matter of persistence and standing in one’s own truth.

This year’s panel included: Dr. Hughes, a political consultant who has been highly influential on the teams of both Senator Edward Kennedy and President Barack Obama; ShaAvhree Buckman-Garner, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, director of the office of Translational Sciences at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with more than 500 staff members; and Jennifer Ellis, M.D., a senior cardiothoracic surgeon at Washington Hospital Center. They were powerhouse members of the external panel, and we were privileged to have them speak. They made it clear that leaping-in was rewarding and worthy. Within leadership passion grows, and in passion lies worth.

Work Alongside the Best

At USACS, we’re never satisfied with the status-quo. We’re constantly looking for innovative solutions to improve efficiencies, lower costs and improve patient care. As women get more involved in the company, USACS will become stronger and more infused with original ideas and wider points-of-view.

But “Is it worth the hassle?” Yes. And it needn’t be a hassle. You can choose to make leadership opportunities a large or small portion of your career. Unlike in many companies, leadership and responsibility at USACS does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Fair warning: when surrounded by people inspired to be better, one tends to get swept up in the surrounding excitement, innovation and passion of others. There is a lot of that here. There is wide latitude to create and customize that responsibilities. Working alongside the best of best clinicians, clinicians at USACS are encouraged to lead and innovate.

USACS is a growing company with great opportunities. I am confident that mere inertia and perception are not enough to hold back the extraordinary women who work here. Come on, ladies. Join me. Leap in.