Despite the change washing over every part of health care, one thing has stayed the same: the percentage of women on hospital and health system boards. Women have comprised only 28 percent of boards since 2011, according to the AHA’s Center for Healthcare Governance National Governance Survey.
Sure, hospital boards are more diverse than those in the corporate world, where women hold only 19 percent of S&P 500 board seats in the United States, Catalyst reports. But that’s not much to be proud of, considering that the health care workforce is nearly 80 percent women. Good governance isn’t representational, but it should be inclusive.
Fortunately, the rationale for adding more women to boards isn’t simply common sense. Research into corporate boards in Norway, which has a mandatory quota of 40 percent women on boards, reveals that boards function better with women members. As reported in a recent Harvard Business Review article, the consequences of gender diversity in governance are:
• Enhanced dialogue
• Better decision-making, including the value of dissent
• More effective risk mitigation and crisis management
• Higher quality monitoring of and guidance to management
• Positive changes to the boardroom environment and culture
• More orderly and systematic board work
• Positive changes in the behavior of men
If boards could buy benefits like these, they would be flying off the shelves. Instead, they are only available through hard work and time, by looking past the obvious choices and the usual networks when it comes time to recruit new trustees. And, of course, by embracing change.