Story updated 5:23 p.m. CST.
NASHVILLE—Women hospital executives can start closing the pay gap with their male counterparts by truly negotiating compensation rather than accepting first offers, C-suite leaders said this week at the Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare conference.
Kathy Lancaster, who has been chief financial officer of giant Kaiser Permanente for 12 years, told about 300 conference attendees that she initially passed on the job over work/life balance issues.
"I told them (initially) that I didn't have the bandwidth," she said.
She had three children at home at the time and the position centralized everything from audits and cashflow to putting together bond issues for capital needs for the nation's largest integrated health system, which now has revenue of about $70 billion. After Lancaster said she would not graduate from interim CFO to the permanent position, management and the board restructured the job to put some responsibilities with other finance executives to give Lancaster the time she needed for family.
That theme of building a lasting career echoed throughout the conference, which was geared around providing women with tools and contacts to advance their careers.
Other speakers included Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro, Yale New Haven Health System CEO Marna Borgstrom and Nancy Schlichting, who recently retired as CEO of the Henry Ford Health System.
Women are still heavily underrepresented in healthcare C-suites and on boards of directors. And they earn far less than their male counterparts, including in the nursing profession.
Women CEOs of hospitals earn 22% less than their male counterparts, a difference that equates to about $132,000 in annual income, said Paula Song, program director at health policy and management department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Song led a CEO compensation study, which is still being vetted for publication, looking at IRS filings from 1,500 not-for-profit hospitals to get the data. Her research also found that male nurses on average earn $5,000 more annually than female nurses, even though they make up just 5% of the nurse workforce.
Both the C-suite and pay disparities speak to biases that persist in hospital cultures and the need for more mentoring of women executives, Gloria Goins, chief diversity and inclusion officer at 19-hospital Bon Secours Health System, told attendees.
To keep breaking the glass ceiling, women executives need to enter job interviews prepared to state the value proposition they bring to organizations and be informed about the going industry salaries for the responsibilities they seek, said Debra Canales, chief administrative officer at Providence St. Joseph Health in Renton, Wash.
"You have to know what you want," said Canales, who previously worked in management at Macy's, Pepsi and Hewlett Packard.
Teri Fontenot, CEO of Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, La., also was uninterested in her post when it was offered to her 21 years ago. The hospital at the time was dealing with physicians disgruntled with management and she didn't want to walk into a hornet's nest.
But Fontenot told her recruiters that she would take two weeks to talk with each of the medical staff individually to see if the issues could be defused.
After those conversations, Fontenot said, she was confident that physicians were ready for the new administration and she took the job.
The lesson is that women executives need to ask for what they want and be authentic, because there's nothing to fear from boards and employers when they are confident in their own skins, Fontenot said.
An edited version of this story also appears in Modern Healthcare's July 24 print edition.