The strategy behind a Florida health system's mostly female leadership team

When Maggie Gill took her first position as a healthcare CFO with Tenet Healthcare in 1994, there was one thing that stood out to her: a predominantly male executive team. 

"I was a young female executive, and I remember looking around the room and seeing no one who looked like me," she recalled. "I always believe people should earn their promotions and work based on the work that they do. But it struck me that we're an industry that's largely female dominated, and there aren't a lot of women sitting around me in this room."

Since that time, Ms. Gill has served in various roles, including president and CEO of Savannah, Ga.-based Memorial Health and CEO of Novant Health UVA Health System in northern Virginia, now UVA Health. Currently, she is CEO of Palm Beach Health Network, a healthcare network in Palm Beach County, Fla., and part of Dallas-based Tenet.

A study published Nov. 29 in JAMA Network Open found women hold only 15 percent of CEO roles in healthcare organizations.

However, in the Palm Beach Health Network, 68 percent of C-suite-level hospital leaders are female, and four of the five hospital CEOs within the group are female.

Identifying talent in women

When it comes to strategy around leadership, the group's efforts involve deliberately identifying talent in women who desire to grow their careers. 

"Fortunately, in healthcare it's not that hard to do because there are a lot of talented women who work in healthcare," said Ms. Gill, who is also the CEO of Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach. "And over the course of time, we have at the Palm Beach network really been able to identify, groom and promote some very talented and diverse female leaders, including four of the five CEOs in the group."

She pointed to recent promotions within the group's leadership teams comprising women with diverse backgrounds including African American, Black American, Haitian American, Hispanic American and South Asian American:

  • Erika Griffin, associate administrator for St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach
  • Saani Syed, director of strategy for the Palm Beach Health Network
  • Aganette Joseph, associate administrator for Delray Medical Center
  • Maria Morales-Menendez, COO of Delray Medical Center
  • Billie Young, IT director for Delray Medical Center and the Palm Beach Health Network
  • Amy Harrison-Daughtry, group director of health information management for the Palm Beach Health Network
  • Jessica Miller, BSN, RN, CNO of St. Mary's Medical Center 

Assisting with career goals

While Palm Beach Health Network focuses on identifying talent, the group's approach also involves cultivating talent.

Ms. Gill said the group specifically works to understand an individual's career objective and help them build the experience and competence to meet their objective. 

For example, the individuals who were promoted have been working on career tracks for years, she said. 

"It's not about necessarily just trying to find somebody to fit something," explained Ms. Gill. "It's really about attracting talent and being able to cultivate that talent through ongoing conversation, career planning and giving feedback constantly so new people are able to grow and prosper in their role."  

Ms. Gill said the group's largely female leadership team attracts women to work there, but she also believes the group's general leadership approach of trying to help individuals meet their goals, identifying areas where they need to develop and working with them over time to be better professionals is a contributing factor.

Effects of female leadership on organizational culture

Because Palm Beach Health Network has a largely female leadership team, Ms. Gill said there is additional understanding of all the things women balance in life, whether it is family, children or other commitments.

"That's not to the exclusion of anyone else, but I do think it provides a unique lens into the things women need to have support with and understanding of all the different components of life people seek to balance every day," she said.

Shannon Wills, chief human resources officer of the Palm Beach Health Network, told Becker's this environment also allows for flexibility around what career growth looks like for everyone. This is especially the case as workers navigate not only their career, but their personal and professional lives.

"Not every job is cookie cutter on hours or days or options, so we're not only able to meet the diversification but also the flexibility around that individual as they're growing their career," said Ms. Wills. 

Additionally, approachability of all leaders is a unique aspect of the group's culture, according to Shelly Weiss Friedberg, a Tenet spokesperson for Florida and four other states. 

Throughout her time with Tenet, she said she has observed that workers in the group want to see each other succeed, so they reach out to each other to help them. 

Having a diverse group of leaders in general is beneficial, too, according to Ms. Gill.

"Obviously we deliver care to all types of people. You get different insights into different cultures, different point of view, different backgrounds," she said. "I think all of that's important when you're in a service industry like healthcare. Never was all of that more important than now, especially working through a pandemic where people have had very difficult situations in their lives. They've had to balance probably more difficulty than they ever thought they would have to, and so I think having that high-touch approach to leadership and career development and then taking a very thoughtful approach to diversity and inclusion builds a better, stronger foundation of a team than built by itself over time."



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