Most Leaders in Health Care Continue to Be White Males, Research Finds

Identifying and tracking the diversity of key leaders in health and health care

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).

Key Findings: 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%) had participated in at least one RWJF program. Together, the State Health Leadership Initiative (42%) and the Clinical Scholars Program (21%) accounted for almost two-thirds of the participation by health leaders in RWJF-sponsored programs.

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