At Virtua Health, female leadership is a strategic imperative 

Women may only hold 25 percent of senior leadership roles in healthcare, but Marlton, N.J.-based Virtua Health is actively bucking that trend. 

Almost 55 percent of the healthcare system's senior leaders are women — more than twice the industry average. In recent years, Virtua has seen women rise through the ranks because it has been looking to identify and acknowledge talent, according to Dennis Pullin, CEO and president.

Five of Virtua's nine-member senior executive team are women, including Sarah Fawcett-Lee, senior vice president and chief philanthropy officer; Stephanie Fendrick, executive vice president and chief strategy officer; Rhonda Jordan, executive vice president and chief human resources officer; Lauren Rowinski, senior vice president and chief legal officer; and Chrisie Scott, senior vice president and chief marketing officer. 

In addition to female C-suite executives, 10 of Virtua's senior vice presidents are women, including:

  • Donna Antenucci, senior vice president, clinical integrated network operations 
  • Lisa Ferraro, senior vice president and chief quality, safety and risk officer
  • Clare Hall, senior vice president,  human resources operations 
  • Catherine Hughes, MSN, senior vice president and chief nursing officer
  • Beth Juliano, senior vice president and clinical information and identity services
  • Jennifer Khelil, DO, senior vice president and chief medical officer
  • Rebecca Lynch, senior vice president and president, Virtua Medical Group
  • Debra Moran, senior vice president, health equity and community-based programs
  • Rita Veterano, senior vice president, integrated care management and home health
  • Mary Annis Wajda, senior vice president, integrated solutions. 

Ms. Jordan and her team are making a deliberate effort to recruit, retain and advance women in Virtua's workforce. In fact, it's a strategic imperative.

"There is an abundance of talented women out there. It's important for today's leaders to provide guidance and opportunities to tomorrow's leaders," Ms. Jordan told Becker's. "What’s more, we need to make extra efforts to support those who, traditionally and still today, face additional barriers when trying to earn a seat at the table."

Ms. Fendrick said she is happy to help women thrive professionally. "In my career, I have benefited from working for and with exceptional women who helped me appreciate my own potential. Now that I am in a leadership role, I consider it both an honor and a responsibility to pay it forward."

According to a Higher Education Policy Institute article, women are more likely to lead with a transformational style, while men take a more transactional approach to leadership. 

"Adopting a transformational leadership [style] allows women to lead effectively and authentically," the article said, also noting that a transformational leadership style demonstrates respect, concern, care, compassion and a focus on equality.

Further, a McKinsey & Co. report released in 2020 said there is a "substantial performance differential — 48 percent — between the most and least gender-diverse companies." 

"I have witnessed such tremendous progress at Virtua through the years, and we are a better organization because of it," Ms. Jordan said. "We have about 10,000 women in our workforce, and collectively we are helping South Jersey be well, get well and stay well."

John Matsinger, DO, executive vice president and chief clinical officer, said patients want to see themselves reflected in the people who provide their care. 

"When I meet with medical students today, I am delighted to see how significantly demographics have shifted since I attended med school. Not only are there far more women, but greater diversity and inclusion on the whole," he said. "That's how we build relations of trust over time."


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