Women in Governance: A Savvy Strategy for Advancing Community Health

By Joann McNutt and Mary K. Totten

In many ways, women are on the front line in health care — as consumers, employees and family caretakers. They possess firsthand knowledge of community health issues and needs. They can bring an informed perspective to health care and other community organizations about where to focus resources to have the greatest impact. As members of all the diverse populations health care organizations serve, women also can provide insight into improving equity of care and meeting the health needs of our nation’s increasingly diverse communities.

It makes sense for hospitals and health systems to tap women for their knowledge and expertise at all levels of health care decision-making. Yet, women are absent or underrepresented where major decisions affecting the continuum of care often are made — in hospital and health system C-suites and boardrooms. American Hospital Association data show that in 2014, women held about 26 percent of hospital and health system CEO positions. The AHA’s 2014 National Health Care Governance Survey found that women comprise 28 percent of health care board membership.

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