By the Numbers

Healthcare Managers and Executives

Though women have been involved throughout the evolution of the field of healthcare administration, men have dominated the field. Of the 102 Charter Fellows of the American College of Hospital Administrators, founded in 1933 to professionalize the field of healthcare administration, only 16 were women. Through the first half of the 20th century, there were occasional female physicians, nurses, and social workers serving as hospital administrators. However, the majority of senior health care executives has been male – most of the exceptions were in institutions operated by Catholic orders and managed by communities of religious women.

No university-affiliated educational programs were offered in the United States in the field of healthcare administration until the mid-1930s. Six graduate programs had been established by 1951; by 1990 there were more than 150 healthcare administration programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Since 1983, over one half of the graduate students in healthcare administration programs have been female.

U.S. Census data from 1990 showed that almost 67% of all medicine and health managers were women. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2003 showed that women comprised almost 71% of medical and health services managers. Despite the growing number of women in healthcare administration, their career attainments continue to lag behind men healthcare executives.

According to a 2000 study conducted by the American College of Healthcare Executives, about 11% of women healthcare executives surveyed, compared to 25% of men, achieved CEO positions. A higher proportion of men than women were in general healthcare management (62 % vs. 46%). The women healthcare executives were more involved than men in specialized management areas such as nursing services (10% vs. 0%); planning, marketing, and quality assurance (17% vs. 11%); and the continuum of care (ambulatory, home and long-term care) (7% vs. 4%).

A higher percentage of women than men healthcare executives (87% vs. 72%) began their healthcare management careers at the department head of department staff level instead of at the vice president or higher levels. More men than women healthcare executives majored in healthcare management (59% vs. 53%), while more women than men had clinical backgrounds (56% vs. 30%).

In compensation, women healthcare executives lag behind men by 19%, even though they have attained equal levels of education and experience. The ACHE survey results in 1990 and 1995 showed a similar wage gap between men and women, indicating that no progress toward equal compensation has been achieved.

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