Gabrielson: Some of it is a conscious bias, but I believe
that much of it is unconscious bias, and therefore,
without significant emphasis placed on overcoming the
inequities, we are unlikely to see significant gains.
The New York Times recently published an
article titled “Why Women Aren’t CEOs, According
to Women Who Almost Were.” In that article, more
than two dozen women who were candidates for the
top CEO spot, but didn’t make it to the #1 position
were interviewed. Their comments were, I think, highly
indicative of the challenges women still face today.
Men remain threatened by assertive women. Women
are often seen as lacking vision. They are not typically
self-promoters, are disproportionately criticized when
they are in the spotlight, and are often penalized to a
greater extent than men when they underperform or
have a misstep. In some cases, women get discouraged
and drop out along the way, which leads to the (wrong)
assumption that it’s a pipeline issue.
GPJ: Why do you think it’s important for women to
be groomed as leaders of healthcare organizations?
Gabrielson: Women bring different perspectives and
approaches to business, resulting in a more inclusive
workplace and often better performance for the
company. Studies have shown that organizations with
women in the C-suite are more profitable. For example,
Harvard Business Review (Feb. 8, 2016) reported that
companies going from having no women in corporate
leadership (the CEO, the board, and other C-suite
positions) to a 30% female share is associated with a
one-percentage-point increase in net margin—which
translates to a 15% increase in profitability for a typical firm. Women in the C-suite also correlate to better
closure of pay gaps between men and women. There
are also other benefits of adding women to the C-suite,
such as increased diversity within top management,
which helps to recruit, promote, and retain talent.
When you look at all of the studies that have been
done, a lack of gender diversity affects all components
of the organization’s bottom line.
GPJ: What were some of the challenges you personally
faced as you rose to a position of leadership?
Gabrielson: I have recognized many of the same
GPJ: You’ve been a leader in developing the AMGA
challenges described above in the studies that have been
conducted. This has been true both in the opportunity
for advancement in the organizations I have worked
for throughout my career, as well as in my ability to
acquire board of directors’ seats. That being said, I
have also had some amazing mentors, both male and
female, who have inspired and encouraged me. I would
not be in the position I am today without those indi-
viduals who taught me the importance of diversity in
the leadership ranks. That’s why I have such a passion
about mentoring and want to do what I can to help
Women in Leadership Council, which focuses on
expanding opportunities for women. Why do you feel it
is important to have a program focused on this issue?
Gabrielson: One of the first things I noticed when
I was appointed to the AMGA board was how few
women were on the board or in leadership positions for
AMGA, as well as in the CEO/CAO positions of our
member organizations. We were talking about being a
high-performing healthcare organization, yet I sensed we
were lacking an essential foundational component to help
us achieve that goal. I also saw an opportunity to provide
our membership with a program that would help them
with development of their female leader pipeline.
I approached Michelle Koury, who at the time was
another female AMGA board member and asked her
if the board had ever considered a women’s mentoring
program. Her response was “not to my knowledge.”
We had offline conversations with a few other board
members and found they were supportive, then developed a proposal and took it to the board a few months
later, and it was approved.
GPJ: What is the goal of the Council and its
Gabrielson: To build a program that expands
women’s ability to prepare them for leadership roles.
The council provides a forum to build their network,
increase exposure to other female and male leaders
who are strong proponents of diversity and who lead
by example, and provides them with tools to develop
themselves as strong candidates for leadership roles.
GPJ: Tell us a little about the effort to develop a men-
Gabrielson: We started in 2016 by surveying AMGA
members who identified the top three reasons for lack
of advancement of women in leadership:
• 46% lack of executive sponsor
• 38% exclusion from informal networks
• 32% lack of women role models
These key insights from the member survey
have guided a key strategic decision for the AMGA