Modern Healthcare Editorial: The case for women executives and a second shortlist for Bezos, Buffett and Dimon

Dr. Joanne Conroy and Fawn Lopez

Originally posted on Modern Healthcare. 

Amazon, Berkshire-Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase created shock waves in January when they announced plans to launch their own healthcare company. On March 8, they generated even more buzz when news spread that a search was underway for a CEO to lead the joint venture. Unfortunately, not all news is good news.

Although the group pledged to cast a wide net in its executive search, the reported shortlist of candidates was all male. That’s shortsighted given the significant role female executives play in shaping an industry that accounts for nearly 18% of the nation’s gross domestic product. And in light of the larger national conversation around gender equality, it’s imperative that women executives be given the same platform to be heard.

The quest of the powerful triumvirate of Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon is a noble one. We applaud their adventurous spirit and entry into an industry that itself is actively trying to innovate, transform and aggressively pursue better quality, better outcomes, better access, better equity and better cost management.

But what type of executive qualifies to lead the new enterprise? The CEO shortlist shocked many who stand at the helm of every segment of the industry: providers, payers, suppliers, government, pharma and biotech. Check the leadership rosters of these entities and you’ll find women in the roles of board chair, CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, CMO, CNO, chief human resources officer, chief innovation officer, chief medical informatics officer and other newly created positions.

As healthcare organizations push further into their communities to achieve population health and other goals, they can no longer afford to rely on informal networks of men—sometimes known as “the old boys’ network”—to develop slates of candidates for top jobs. Leadership must reflect their constituents.

Seventy-eight percent of women consider themselves the primary healthcare decisionmaker for their household, according to 2016 research from NRC Health. Moreover, women champion a broadened concept of health and well-being that embraces food and nutrition, safety, water and air quality, education and community. Women reflect the values and interests of the consumers who are targeted by every for-profit and not-for-profit business.

Women’s uniqueness on the business front is no less compelling. Women pursue opportunities for internal entrepreneurship and business growth, according to leadership development firm Zenger Folkman. They promote collaboration and strategic connection, says a Gallup survey. And 10 years of McKinsey research shows that women excel at people development, which influences revenue growth and the bottom line.

Many of the men and women who drive healthcare’s clinical and business performance are eager to recruit and hire women leaders. Modern Healthcare has promoted their work through news and feature stories, executive profiles, awards programs and an annual women’s conference. And we’re proud to see women’s names surface on our multiple lists of award winners—from the Top 25 Women in Healthcare, Health Care Hall of Fame and the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare, to Up and Comers, the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives, the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, and more.

Another organization, Women of Impact, believes that health and healthcare will soar when more women join the leadership ranks. The members of Women of Impact welcome a partnership to identify a second shortlist of women healthcare executives to lead the Bezos-Buffet-Dimon healthcare enterprise.

The only way to shatter the glass ceiling is by breaking the standard mold that’s dominated these types of shortlists. Whether it’s the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMorganChase venture, or head of a large health system, accomplished female executives deserve a shot at the top job.