Today on International Women’s Day, we celebrate women’s achievements and advocate for equality – making this year’s theme, “Choose to Challenge,” all the more relevant and timely.
Yes, we have come far since women in this country fought for—and won—the right to vote in 1920. Yes, we achieved a huge milestone when the first female vice president, Kamala Harris, was inaugurated this year. But so much remains to be done. From the halls of Congress, to state legislatures and city councils, to corporate boards, to C-suites and to hiring and pay rates and social justice issues, women are too often under-represented and too often unheard.
From our early childhoods, my mother instilled the idea in me, my three sisters and my brother that women have the ability to achieve their dreams. I found mine in a favorite childhood book called, “Women Who Dare,” an inspiring collection of stories about women who were the firsts in their fields and made lasting contributions–often overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles: Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, and other women who said this is a barrier I can break, this is a change I can make, this is a difference I want to have in the world.
At Sutter Health, we’re all about the difference we can make in the world and in the lives of the patients and communities we care for each day.
It’s important to us that women at all levels of Sutter have opportunities for growth, and that they have a flexible work environment. Recent survey data shows most of the women working at Sutter feel the organization provides equitable and fair opportunities and I’m proud of the progress we’ve made:
- Women make up 77% of Sutter’s 55,000 employees
- Women hold 51 percent of executive roles
- 49% of physicians are women
- 85% of nursing staff are women
- Nearly half – 9 of 19 – of our Sutter Health board members are women – that’s 47 percent
- Although only 13% of all healthcare systems in the U.S. are led by women, I proudly serve as president and CEO of Sutter Health
We know the pandemic is affecting women in profound ways. Sutter Health participated in the 2020 Women in the Workplace Survey – which found that COVID-19 has women around the country feeling they are ‘always on’ with concerns about family, health and finances—and all of this creates the danger of burnout. No one is experiencing business as usual, but women—especially mothers, senior-level women and Black women and other women of color—have faced distinct challenges, according to the survey findings. One in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of the ripple effects of COVID-19.
It’s not exclusively the role of women to be caretakers. We have many wonderful men in our lives and workplaces who are also caretakers, but we know that statistically women often end up taking care of others to the detriment of themselves. These times are particularly challenging for women who still have young children at home. I know how hard it was for me to be a working mom – and the whole challenge of the school drop off and pick up, homework, and all else. I can’t even imagine what working moms and all parents are facing today as they deal with home school and try to ease the anxiety their children or teenagers may be experiencing. My children are now young adults and I watch with admiration how parents today of young children are coping with today’s challenges.
Beyond the pandemic, women face other challenges in the workplace. There’s not enough diversity in the leadership of organizations across our country right now. A lot of effort and progress has been made, but more needs to be done. It needs to start with hiring. Do women applicants, and people of color and abilities feel supported enough to apply and do we support them through the entire process? We need to determine if there are structural or other barriers in joining our organizations and career advancement.
Mentoring and sponsorship are also critically important. It’s our responsibility to make sure we’re working with and growing the next generation of leaders. We need to identify and help match women with opportunities that we see open up across our organizations.
On this International Women’s Day 2021, I thank and recognize all the amazing women in our workplaces, families and communities for doing such heroic work during these unprecedented times. And I want to also recognize my male colleagues who are so committed to equality in the workplace. There is work to be done to advance equity and work-life integration for women – but women are ready.
I stand with you and in awe of you.
Originally published in LinkedIn.