Women In Leadership: Why Are Some Industries Not Female-Friendly?

Have you given any thought as to why certain industries have fewer women in leadership than others? For example, in healthcare, women make up 80% of the workforce, but only 40% of leadership.[1] In finance, fewer than 10% of fund managers are women,[2] and in technology, less than 10% of executive positions are held by women. [3]

From these facts, are there some conclusions we can draw as to why there are so few women in leadership in these industries? I’ve heard some speculate that it’s the hours these industries require. In healthcare for example, many administrators come up through the ranks of practicing physicians. It has been a long-known fact that the rite of passage to become a hospital doc has included extended hours for days at a time. Many of the physicians I’ve talked to have shared stories of caring for patients on few hours of sleep and lots of caffeine. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want is someone performing surgery or administering powerful drugs when they’ve only slept for a handful of hours in the last several days. Environments like this are doing nothing to attract more candidates to healthcare, let alone women.  

Technology may not be as life dependent as healthcare, but it is also a very time-intensive industry. Creature comforts aside, technology supports everything from energy sources to our financial systems. If a system goes down, results can be devastating.

When it comes to finance however, I’m a bit perplexed. Sure it’s an intense industry, but there are currently limits on the times of day that financial transactions can occur. Banks and markets close. And listening to pitches for funds is also not a 24-hour per day activity.

The truth is, we could make cultural changes in all of these industries that would help keep female talent from leaving and elevate women to leadership. Do medical interns really need to work around the clock? Can science and technology companies leverage automation and artificial intelligence to create better testing and information management processes that can be managed remotely? More job-sharing perhaps? Can financial services focus a little more on diversity and elevating women? Maybe reach outside comfortable networks to find female talent? The answer is “Yes” to all of these questions. It simply requires changing our perspectives about what is possible and start taking the steps to drive change.

If you would like to learn more about the actions you can take to promote better gender balance in leadership,  please see Chapter 10 in my new book, Money On The Table, available here.  

[1] Advisory Board https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/blog/2014/08/women-in-leadership

[2] Fortune.com http://fortune.com/2016/11/28/female-fund-managers-morningstar

[3] Business Insider: Tech Insiderhttp://www.businessinsider.com/women-hold-just-11-of-executive-positions-at-silicon-valley-tech-companies-2015-1