Women leaders tend to utilise a more democratic form of leadership

Gender diversity in leadership roles is extremely important in healthcare assuming 50 per cent of the patient population is women. Ishiqa Multani, Executive Director, Sagar Group of Hospitals reveals more in interaction with M Neelam Kachhap

70 per cent of the healthcare workforce is made up of women, but less than 25 per cent are in leadership  positions. Is this true for the Indian healthcare sector?


Women occupy few leadership positions in the healthcare sector. In an Indian context, I would agree with that assertion. The majority of women in healthcare play a lower-ranking role. Furthermore, as a woman, getting to the highest offices in healthcare takes a lot of work, given that there are more constraining factors that make
it challenging for women to climb the ladder of leadership. Many of the C-Suite executives and department heads in healthcare organisations are men. A gender balance across levels is non-existent and will remain elusive unless proactive measures are taken to eliminate the obstacles that keep women from reaching leadership positions. Despite women occupying less than 25 per cent of leadership positions, an increase in numbers is not only possible but imperative for improving the diversity of leadership in the healthcare sector so that the system can realise its full potential for the benefit of employees and patients.

What are the main constraints for women to reach leadership positions in healthcare?

There are many constraints keeping women from reaching leadership positions in healthcare. A primary restriction is that many organisations are not ready to hire women for top executive positions. Even when they hire women for leadership positions, women tend to be held to higher standards than men. If a male leader commits a mistake, he is bound to receive more grace than a female leader. An additional constraining factor is that women tend to have more family responsibilities that do not allow them the flexibility needed to be leaders in
an organisation. In an Indian context, the woman’s domain is the house and the kitchen. Even if women climb up the ladder of leadership, they are still expected to ensure that they do not neglect their household duties which
can be mentally and physically taxing.

Compared to men, women are much more likely to choose their families over their work, which may keep them away from leadership positions. Company cultures also serve as another barrier. Since many leaders are men, company cultures tend to be male-centric,making it challenging for women to reach leadership positions in healthcare because the idea that women can be leaders is not considered a norm. The fact that there are few women leaders also impacts the number of women in leadership because women do not have other female leaders to whom they can look up to or reach out to if they desire mentorship in leadership.

Do Women leaders (CEOs, CXOs) perform better?
Women leaders tend to utilise a more democratic form of leadership. That means they will listen to input from
experts, qualified personnel, and employees and make decisions based on consensus rather than their personal views. On the other hand, male leaders can be more authoritarian, which can be overbearing for some employees. People under female leaders feel more empowered to perform their duties than those who work under male leaders, enabling employees to gain the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to perform their work effectively. Additionally, women leaders tend to be more empathetic, making them better placed to occupy
leadership positions. For example, for a female Chief Experience Officer (C.X.O.) it is much easier to empathise
with clients and tailor an experience of the company’s products or services to meet the specific needs of the  clientele. Empathy is also beneficial in leading employees, making it much easier to motivate them. Thus, it is safe to say that women leaders perform better, which is why companies should invest in female leaders.

Why should companies invest in female leaders?
Gender diversity in leadership roles is extremely important in healthcare assuming 50 per cent of the patient
population is women. Also, the healthcare decisions of a household are generally made by a woman. Having female leaders with an understanding of its client base will ensure better decision making. Besides culture will also improve since investing in female Interview leaders creates a culture of diversity and equity within the organisation.

Second, having more female leaders will encourage female employees and attract more qualified women to the organisation. Third, employees are the most essential intangible resource in the organisation, meaning they must be managed well and as noted, female leaders tend to perform better as they are more thoughtful and  communicate much better which will  improve employee morale, which will affect output. As output increases, the company may get higher revenue and profits in the long run.

Your recommendations for more equitable healthcare leadership?

I would suggest an improvement in organisational culture. As I noted, company cultures are an issue. Since many leaders are men, company cultures tend to be male-centric, making it challenging for women to reach leadership positions in healthcare.  Company cultures must be created in a manner that encourages more equity in leadership. For example, having a daycare or childcare facility within the organisation will offer more women greater flexibility to come to work and rise the leadership ladder, especially if they have toddlers. Having concrete policies written in the company laws will promote equity. Second, more women should be mentored and groomed for leadership positions. This can be done by selecting a few promising women with leadership acumen and pairing them with a leader in the company who shall serve as their leadership mentor. This will expose more women to leadership and what it entails, and increase the number of women interested in leadership opportunities. Similarly, more women should be encouraged to apply for leadership positions whenever available. In doing so, the organisation will prepare itself for more equitable healthcare leadership and will reap the benefits of having more women in leadership.

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