Only 13% of Healthcare CEOs are Women — Here's What These Companies Are Doing Right

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
June 23, 2024 at 7:28AM UTC
While women make up over 70 percent of the healthcare workforce, they're significantly underrepresented in senior leadership positions.
In fact, according to a report by consulting firm Oliver Wyman, just 30 percent of C-suite members and a meager 13 percent of CEOs in the healthcare industry are women. That's largely because, on average, it takes women three to five years longer to achieve such titles.

Despite the grim statistics, however, there are some women who are shattering the glass ceiling across all sectors of the healthcare system. These women are responsible for developing policy, leading change in their fields and guiding healthcare delivery improvement.

Top 25 Women in Healthcare

Here are the top 25 women in the healthcare industry, according to Modern Healthcare's Leaders biennial program.

1. Kathy Lancaster — Executive vice president and chief financial officer, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals

Beyond serving as the executive sponsor of Kaiser's Finance & Shared Services Women in Leadership program, Kathy Lancaster has a history of aligning financial operations across Kaiser's network — from managing a $4.4 billion bond issuance used to help finance a long-term capital plan to orchestrating a deal with energy providers to ensure that their health system is carbon-neutral by 2020.

2. Karen Lynch — Executive vice president, CVS Health

Karen Lynch is leading CVS Health-Aetna through its recent combination with CVS Health, helping Aetna to grow its government Medicare Advantage membership and premiums by eight percent by bringing simpler, more affordable and more responsive practices to consumers.

3. Susan Sweeney — President and head, U.S. Commercial, Bristol-Myers Squibb

On top of being actively involved in the company's Network of Women program, Susan Sweeney helms one of the most profitable divisions at Bristol-Myers Squibb — the biopharma division. The division generates 60 percent of the company's business, totaling nearly $12 billion. In her leadership position, Sweeney oversaw the growth of key drugs such as blood thinners and antipsychotic medications, and she advocated for real-world data and its application in drug development.

4. Amy Perry — CEO, hospital division, Atlantic Health System

Amy Perry has worked hard to align the New Jersey health system's strategic and financial properties, forging a collaboration with MedExpress to add healthcare access points like urgent-care centers. She also helped to bring employees across various New Jersey health systems together under one insurance plan as an executive on the Health Transformation Consortium, as well promoted female executives at Atlantic Health hospitals.

5. Rebecca Madsen — Chief Consumer Officer, UnitedHealthcare

Also named a "Woman Worth Watching" by Diversity Journal in 2018, Madsen launched a groundbreaking program that helps members find lower-costing drugs over 20% of the time. During her nearly 20 years at the company, she's held a variety of leadership position across the verticals of strategy, data and analytics, product development, marketing and operations.

6. Dr. Redonda Miller — President, Johns Hopkins Hospital

On top of promoting gender diversity with her more-than-half-female team, Dr. Redonda Miller first became the president of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 2016, and she's had quite the impact thus far. Since she took the lead, she's created care-coordination bundles,overseen the launch of a high-value care committee, bolstered employee engagement and, as such, patient satisfaction, and she's even reduced the prescribing of opioids and increased the prescribing of naloxone.

7. Andrea Walsh — President and CEO, HealthPartners

Andrea Walsh has been at the helm of HealthPartners since 2017, though she's been part of the senior leadership team for more than two decades. Since she became president and CEO, however, she's expanded the health system's community outreach, attracting more than 300,000 new patients. This means that she has increased health plan membership by 10 percent, and she's now expanding access to mental healthcare, as well.

8. Seema Verma — Administrator, CMS

Since March 2017, Seema Verma has led CMS, pursuing new policies, pushing for hospital price transparency and modifications to other pay models, as well as issuing guidance to states on getting waivers approved for Medicaid work requirements, which has happened for seven states thus far.

9. Nancy Howell Agee — President and CEO, Carilion Clinic

Nancy Agee has been a vocal voice for women in healthcare. She has served as chair of the American Hospital Association's board of trustees and is a leading voice in her home state of Virginia for expanding Medicaid. She's also a long-time mentor of female leaders at Carilion Clinic, where half of the leadership team are women.

10. Madeline Bell — President and CEO, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Madeline Bell has been working for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for more than three decades — she began her career there as a nurse, and she's led the organization since 2015. She's responsible for leading a number of career development programs, including the creation of the employee-based Women's Resource Group that have contributed to the hospital's nearly 80-percent female workforce.

11. Mary Boosalis — President and CEO, Premier Health

Mary Boosalis, who is Premier Health's first female CEO in the health system's 23-year history, has spearheaded a number of successful iniatitves. For one, she helped lead the push to address the opiod epidemic, including by creating a website,, to provide the public with information about drug dependency.

12. Debra Canales — Executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Providence St. Joseph Health

Debra Canales has worked for Providence St. Joseph Health since 2014, focusing on improving provider engagement. For example, after implementing new programs to address work-life balance and a #NotHere campaign in response to #MeToo, in 2017, the health system witnessed better engagement scores and lower turnover.

13. Dr. Mandy Cohen — Secretary, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Beyond serving as secretary for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen has secured $90 million in funding for the state's opiod prevention plan, working with stakeholders on Medicaid transformation and Early Childhood Action plans, as well as leading efforts to integrate behavioral and physical health in North Carolina's Medicaid program. Under her leadership, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services even enacted a mentoring program to help place female employees in positions in which they can grow — today 42 percent of her leadership team is female talent.

14. Tina Freese Decker — President and CEO, Spectrum Health

Tina Freese Decker has held a number of roles at Spectrum Health, from the director of planning to the executive vice president to the COO to, now, CEO. During her tenure as COO, she's made quite an impact, most notably overseeing a $300 million care redesign and EHR implentation that cut per admission expenses by 70 percent. She's also responsible for adding five women to C-suite positions.

15. Cynthia Hundorfean — President and CEO, Allegheny Health Network

Cynthia Hundorfean has been with Allegheny Health Network since 2016, when the health system was losing $40 million per year. Her one-year turnaround plan, however, lead to three straight positive quarters in 2018, and she even launched a $1 billion capital expansion campaign. On top of all of this, she also instituted local mentoring programs for women, as a member of the Women's Health Activist Movement, a Pittsburgh-based advocacy group, and she increased the hiring of female executives.

16. Laura Kaiser — President and CEO, SSM Health Care

Laura Kaiser has a number of successes under her belt. She led a strategic plan the resulted in SSM Health Care saving $150 million in 2018, she implemented best practices to tackle the opioid crisis, and she expanded the health system's reach, for examples.

17.  Dr. Anne Klibanski — Chief academic officer, Partners HealthCare System

Dr. Anne Klibanski has saved Partners HealthCare System millions. On top of overseeing $1.7 billion in annual research funding at the health system, she's spearheaded efforts to save it $10 million annually in radiology programs, as well as funded efforts for one of the country's largest biobanks. She also helps women both by training post-doctoral fellows, most of whom are women, and through her scholarship program at Massachusetts General Hospital to help women researchers stay in the industry despite childcare issues.

18. Patricia Maryland — President and CEO, Ascension Healthcare

For Ascension's expansive care settings, totaling more than 2,600 sites in 21 states, Patricia Maryland oversees operations. She helped the health system shift to a population health focus, she's been spearheading efforts to focus on social determinants, and she's also advanced diversity within the workforce through various programs she's created.

19. Dr. Barbara McAneny — President, American Medical Association

Before serving as president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Barbara McAneny has served on the physician group's board since 2010 — as chair from 2015 to 2016 — is a founding member and current board chair of the National Cancer Care Alliance, and she's founded the New Mexico Cancer Center. She's been rather influential in the industry, as she's implemented alternative payment models for a coalition of cancer care providers.

20. Dr. Janice Nevin — President and CEO, Christiana Care Health System

Dr. Janice Nevin continues to meet and exceed goals for the Christiana Care Health System. For one, she's responsible for overseeing the expansion of the health system's access points, including more virtual care. She's also launched a Center for Provider Wellbeing to address clinician burnout, and she's helped integrate medical and behavioral health data in real-time through her information technology program that won her the John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award in 2016.

21. Candice Saunders — President and CEO, WellStar Health System

Candice Saunders was named CEO of WellStar Health System in 2015 (the health system's first female CEO), though she began her career with the health system in 2007 as president of the system's flagship hospital in Marietta, Georgia. Today, she leads 11 hospitals and more than 250 additional care sites, on top of implementing performance-improvement plans for employees and overseeing acquisitions, such as the 2016 acquisition of five Tenet Healthcare Corp. hospitals, which doubled WellStar's presence in the Atlanta region.

22. Ninfa Saunders — President and CEO, Navicent Health

Ninfa Saunders has a wealth of successes attached to her name. She's expanded Navicent's reach in Georgia, has launched telehealth programs for rural communities in the area, has led efforts to address the opioid epidemic and has helped the health system to push for gender equity.

23.  Dr. Joanne Smith — President and CEO, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Dr. Joanne Smith, president and CEO of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, which serves more than 50,000 patients annually, has earned her position as a top female leader in health care. As a winner of the Women of Concern Humanitarian Award, she's overseen the construction of the rehab hospital's new facility, which marries clinical and research capabilities; today, inpatient admissions are up 20 percent since the new facility opened in 2017 under her watch.

24. Johnese Spisso — President, UCLA Health

Johnese Spisso took the role of president at UCLA Health in 2016, and she's since made her mark. She's pushed to redesign care, to improve coordination across disciplines and to focus on innovation in biomedical science. On top of that, she's hired five female senior leaders, brought three female faculty chairs to the UCLA and mentored two women who went on to achieve president and CEO positions in 2018.

25. Paula Steiner — President and CEO, Health Care Service Corp.

Under Paula Steiner's leadership, Health Care Service Corp. has seen substantial financial growth. She's launched a personalized approach to help patients manage their illness, which led to a 93 percent rate of interaction with high-cost patients, for example.

26. Pamela Sutton-Wallace — CEO, University of Virginia Medical Center

Pamela Sutton-Wallace brings her background in political science to the health care industry, leading clinical redesigns, improving patient care, creating a statewide pediatric network and expanding the University of Virginia Medical Center's telemedicine services.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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