Exploring the impact of women leaders and the need for integrated leadership in the health care industry and beyond through our partnership with nonprofit foundation Unlocking Eve


Unlocking Eve InfographicThe need for great leadership is urgent, and when lives hang in the balance, it becomes even more critical. Right now, women are the backbone of the health care industry—making up 70% of the workforce—yet they hold only a quarter of the industry’s senior-level leadership positions. This imbalance has far-reaching consequences. The World Health Organization (WHO) rightly asserted in 2019 that marginalizing women from decision-making leads to worse health outcomes for everyone.

We saw this in real time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries with female leaders had fewer deaths and were more effective at flattening the pandemic’s curve than countries with male leaders. And leaders who relied on agentic qualities, or those traditionally seen as “masculine,” had even worse health outcomes. The U.S., for example, had nearly six times as many confirmed COVID-19 cases as any other country and the largest number of deaths in the world.

If current trends continue, we’re not only looking at a dearth of women at the top in health care, but a dearth of women workers, period. A million women have left the U.S. workforce since the start of the Great Resignation, already contributing to what the World Economic Forum predicts will be a global health care worker shortage of 15 million by 2030.

What does the absence of women in senior leadership and decision-making roles mean for society, in general, and health care, in particular? Broadly speaking, it signals an over-reliance on traditionally masculine, task-focused leadership, characterized by qualities such as competition, achievement, and assertiveness. The problem is that the increasing complexity and uncertainty of the modern workplace requires a different skill set, one that favors people-focused leadership and characteristics such as shared decision-making, communication, and empathy.

In other words, the way things are is no longer working. It’s time for a change.

Transforming Health Care Leadership

Enter Eva McLellan and Kaye Vitug, health care executives and co-founders of Unlocking Eve, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to finding, developing, and empowering leaders with the qualities necessary to create a more balanced and healthier world. “We all feel it,” say Eva and Kaye. “Something is out of balance in our organizations, our communities, our world.”

Though traditionally feminine leadership qualities, such as collaboration and open communication, may go a long way toward addressing the challenges faced by the modern workforce, the solution is not simply to replace the current paradigm, which leans into traditionally masculine characteristics, with a new one that leans into those traditionally feminine ones. The key is to identify qualities shared by the most effective leaders—regardless of gender—and integrate them into a new model for leadership effectiveness.

What’s interesting is that, in our work, we’ve found that women more often embody this integrated model. So, increasing opportunities for women leaders becomes a practical application of the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats.

Through the shared purpose of turning this insight into action, Eva and Kaye created Unlocking Eve with two primary goals in mind:

    1. to accelerate the advancement of women into leadership positions in health care by 50%, and
    2. to advance a new profile of integrated leadership excellence for leaders in all areas of business and society.

Knowing that to achieve these goals, they would need the data and tools necessary to inspire change, it was a natural fit for the pair to team up with us at Leadership Circle. We provide access to the largest leadership effectiveness database on the planet and offer insights and analysis from our work with leaders in health care and beyond. Unlocking Eve moves the needle through immersive experiences, primary and secondary research, and high-impact awareness campaigns. The result is a partnership that strengthens both of our missions.

“We can’t do this alone,” say Eva and Kaye. “We’re proud to take this journey alongside individuals and organizations like Leadership Circle, who share our passion and purpose.”

Engaging the World’s Top Leaders

When you’re trying to make the case that a new model of integrated leadership is the key to unlocking a universally more effective way to lead, there are few better places in the world to do it than at the United Nations.

And that’s precisely what Eva and Kaye will be doing next week in New York City, during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. They’ll take part in special events and present their findings—based on our research—to world leaders from public, private, and government organizations focused on health equity, entrepreneurship, and women in health care.

Ahead of the events of the UNGA, Unlocking Eve and Leadership Circle have jointly published a white paper, “Integrated Leadership: The Pathway to Transforming Healthcare and Healing the World,” to introduce this new paradigm of leadership for the 21st century. This is the first in a series we look forward to producing as part of our strategic collaboration as we work together to transform health care leadership and heal the world.

Read the full report, “Integrated Leadership: The Pathway to Transforming Healthcare and Healing the World.”

About Our Partner

The Unlocking Eve Foundation, co-founded by health care leaders Eva McLellan and Kaye Vitug, was born from the unwavering belief that enabling new models of balanced and integrated leadership is essential to transform health care and heal the world. At the heart of their work is a dual mission: to advance a new profile of leadership excellence and to accelerate women’s advancement in health care leadership by 50%. Unlocking Eve aims to impact 100 million lives by 2030 through thought leadership, compelling research, transformative tools, and high-impact partnerships for system change. Learn more at unlockingeve.org.

Sarah Stall

Author Sarah Stall

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