4 leading women on succeeding in healthcare 

In October and December, the following healthcare leaders shared their advice for women seeking success in the industry. Here is what they had to say:

Denise Basow, MD. CEO of Clinical Effectiveness for Wolters Kluwer (Waltham, Mass.): My observation is that overall, women tend to lack confidence. We tend to be hard on ourselves and see our deficiencies before we feel good about our strengths. I'm not sure if that's unique to IT, but maybe it's even more prevalent in IT, where historically there have been fewer women. I spend a lot of time giving pep talks to women and I much less frequently need to do that with men. So my best advice is to just have confidence in yourself. I've talked to so many women with fantastic resumes who've been saying, 'Well, I don't think I'm ready for that next move because I'm lacking a certain skill.' And I think I'm living proof that you don't have to know everything. When you go into a new role you have to work hard, be curious, collaborative, willing to learn and just have the confidence that you can fill in the gaps. If I could impart that message to more women, I think that would be a positive thing.

Madeline Bell, BSN. CEO of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: I would tell women, and I do tell women, to not leave healthcare. So many women are leaving the workforce right now, healthcare in particular. And I would tell them that there's lots of opportunity and flexibility in a career in healthcare no matter what it is. You can be on the provider side, you can be on the insurance side, you can work for pharma, life sciences, health policy. There are just so many opportunities. [My advice is] to not limit yourself in your current career, but to think more broadly about healthcare, and because healthcare is so dominated by women, and many consumer decisions about healthcare are made by women, having women leaders in healthcare is really important. 

Yolanda Coleman, PhD, RN. Chief Nursing Officer for Weiss Memorial Hospital (Chicago): I would say you have to be passionate about your leadership role. You should have a desire to be a positive mentor. You should always exhibit a conscious concern for patient care, continually focus on quality and safety, have a commitment and dedication to the profession and also maintain the highest level of competency, and you need to be proactive in an ever-changing and hectic environment.

Prathibha Varkey, MD. President of Mayo Clinic Health System (Rochester, Minn.): Close to 70 percent of individuals who make decisions about healthcare for families are women, and about a similar proportion of the workforce in healthcare are women, but there continues to be a significant discrepancy in terms of women in senior roles nationally. 

My advice to aspiring women leaders: Approach opportunities with grit and courage; be fearless in execution and persistent despite evolving challenges. There is so much opportunity to transform healthcare right now. We ourselves, as healthcare institutions, have learned so much and grown so much over the last couple of years, and we really need diversity in terms of thought perspective in leadership, in driving healthcare and healthcare agendas forward. And I think women and diversity in leadership will take us much further in terms of these opportunities. 

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