Through surveys in 2006 and 2009, the Lewin Group tracked the characteristics of people in key leadership positions in health and health care in the United States, focusing especially on changes in the percentages of women and underrepresented minorities.
The researchers used an Internet search and stakeholder interviews to identify key leadership positions in health care services, government, academia and philanthropy. The researchers then relied on a Web-based survey to ask leaders holding those positions their age, gender, level of education and race and ethnicity, and whether they had participated in leadership or scholars programs sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
In a report to RWJF, the researchers noted the following key findings:
- In both 2006 and 2009, more than 70 percent of the leaders were white males in their mid-fifties who had held their leadership position for about six years.
- The percentages of women and Hispanics in key leadership positions rose modestly between 2006 and 2009. Among positions that saw a change in leaders, the percentage of women rose from 28 percent to 39 percent.
- The proportion of male leaders with doctoral/professional degrees fell by about 8 percentage points between 2006 and 2009, while the proportion of females with that level of education grew by about 12 percentage points.
- Of 259 unique leaders identified in 2006 and 2009, 62 (24 percent) had participated in at least one RWJF program. Together, the State Health Leadership Initiative (42 percent) and the Clinical Scholars Program (21 percent) accounted for almost two-thirds of the participation by health leaders in RWJF-sponsored programs.
See the Appendix for tables describing all findings.
Conclusions and Limitations
The characteristics of key leaders in health and health care remained similar in 2006 and 2009 despite changes in the political landscape stemming from presidential and congressional elections, as well as mergers and other shifts in the health and health care sectors. The researchers noted these factors that may help explain the findings:
- Three years may be too short a time frame to reveal meaningful changes in the characteristics of those occupying health and health care leadership positions.
- Surveys that focus on a small cohort of formal national leadership positions may overlook changes in lower-level yet influential national, regional and local positions and/or people regarded as leaders by virtue of their abilities and influence rather than their positions.
RWJF supported this project with a grant of $277,249 from February 2006 through 2009.
The project ended with this grant.