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Published by: BoardEx
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Leadership Diversity Analysis: The U.S. Healthcare Industry

Published by: BoardEx
Published on:
Across industries, advocates and activist investors are pushing for gender diversity on boards and leadership teams. September 2020 healthcare industry data from BoardEx shows the healthcare industry still lacks female representation in their leadership teams. But that may not be indicative of what’s soon to come.

Leadership Diversity Analysis: The U.S. Healthcare Industry

Across industries, advocates and activist investors are pushing for gender diversity on boards and leadership teams. September 2020 healthcare industry data from BoardEx shows the healthcare industry still lacks female representation in these roles. But that may not be indicative of what’s soon to come.

The BoardEx analysis features results from 74 U.S. healthcare companies in the SmallCap 600, S&P MidCap 400, or S&P 500 indexes. With an average board size of roughly nine members, healthcare organizations in the study have an average female board membership rate of just over 25%. With an average leadership team of roughly 10 members, healthcare organizations have an average female team membership rate of just under 25%.

Fortunately, companies whose boards have lower average tenures are more likely to have higher rates of female board and leadership members. Since most female board members are new members themselves, this suggests a sea change may very well be underway.

What’s more, companies with more females in board positions and on leadership teams have recent achievements that put them ahead of competitors by some key measures. The following is an analysis of overall female representation in healthcare corporate governance and leadership, featuring a closer look at those trends and industry outliers.

Female Board and Leadership Team Memberships Are Few and Far Between

Among the healthcare organizations in the study, only three companies—Tabula Rasa Healthcare (TRHC), Amedisys Inc (AMED), and AMN Healthcare Services Inc (AMN)—have boards that are at least half female. Seventeen of the 72 healthcare organizations in the study have only 1 female board member, and 1 healthcare organization in the study has no female board members—Zynex Inc (ZYXI).

Zynex Inc (which was recently IPOd in 2019) doesn’t simply have an all-male board—atypically, it has a recently assembled all-male board. The company cut 2 of its 5 board members in 2014 during a restructuring. The company now has only 4 board members, all male, and yet has the second-lowest average tenure of all companies in the study.

The results are similar among healthcare leadership teams in terms of gender diversity; 18 of the 72 healthcare organizations in the study each have only 1 female on their respective leadership teams. Meanwhile, four healthcare organizations in the study have zero—including Select Medical Holdings Corp (SEM), which has a board of 9 with only 1 female member as well.

How McKesson Corp Might Be Changing the Healthcare Game

McKesson Corp (MCK) has some recent, newsworthy accomplishments associated with its half-female leadership team that differentiates it from other companies. Lori Schechter, Now Chief Legal Officer at McKesson Corp, was honored by Becker’s Hospital Review as 1 of 110 women in MedTech to Know in 2017.

More recently, McKesson has been acknowledged for its women in IT functions, its inclusivity of female African-American employees, and its dynamic women’s resource group, the “Women’s Network.” McKesson has an outspoken “Diversity and Inclusion” policy that many competitors lack as well.

But what is especially noteworthy is how female-led companies stand out in the healthcare industry in terms of performance. McKesson, for example, “delivered across-the-board sales growth despite COVID-19 headwinds,” The Motley Fool reported in May 2020, exceeding the expectations of Wall Street. Our analysis suggests their high performance and earned confidence may be consistent with other healthcare organizations led by women as well.

Progress at Companies with Great Diversity on the Boards and Within the Leadership Teams

Recent events suggest a connection may exist between female board membership and recent company performance. Here’s a closer look at companies in the study with the highest female-to-male board ratios.

Accolades and High Performance

At Tabula Rasa Healthcare Inc, most of the board is female—5 of the 9 board members. The company’s most recent addition to the board—Pamela Schweitzer, PharmD, who became a board member in March 2019—is the former Rear Admiral (RADM) Assistant Surgeon General and Chief Pharmacist of the United States Public Health Service (PHS). One year later, in March 2020, the company was acknowledged as a Winning ‘W’ Company by the 2020 Women on Boards global education and women’s advocacy group. Their Chairman and CEO, Calvin H. Knowlton, Ph.D. describes the company’s progress:

“TRHC is a better company for the gender diversity of both our Board of Directors and our employee base. Currently, 60% percent of our employees are women. We gain immensely from different perspectives, backgrounds, and skill sets. We consistently strive to leverage our diversity to help drive business success.”

The acknowledgment is certainly helpful, but the efficacy of female board membership likely goes beyond accolades alone. At Amedisys Inc, half of the board is female—4 of the 8 members. Much like McKesson, the Baton Rouge-based company and hospice-care leader recently surpassed Wall Street’s expectations. Their shares have risen by 29% since the beginning of the year, due mostly to shrewd executive dealings that include integrating a Personal Care operating segment into its business through acquisitions and partnerships.

AMN Healthcare Services Inc also boasts a board that is half female—4 of the 8 members. The company has the second-highest female-to-male ratio among leadership teams, and they are 1 of only 4 companies in the study with a female CEO as well. The company’s stock values are rising, and it continues to pay off liabilities and re-invest capital in operational improvements, reducing risk for investors.

Profiles of Female Chairs and CEOs Suggest Similar Progress

For additional insight, we profiled the only female chair and two CEOs of companies in the study to identify any outstanding qualities. The results suggest companies appoint chairs and company leaders as they would any male—based on experience and credentials, and from both outside and inside their companies. However, as suggested, their tenure is much shorter and appointments much more recent than their male counterparts. Here are some profiles of the women represented in the study.

Pamela M. Arway, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, DaVita Inc

DaVita Inc has the only female chair in the study: Pamela M. Arway. Although Pamela has been a board member at DaVita since May 2009, she did not become chair until June 2020. She has been on boards at companies across multiple industries as well—The Hershey Company, for example, and Iron Mountain Incorporated, where she remains a board member and chair of its compensation committee today.

It appears her appointment to chair comes alongside some very positive developments for the company. DaVita Inc had positive second-quarter earnings in 2020, despite the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and other financial challenges.

Susan Salka, Chief Executive Officer, AMN Healthcare Services

Susan Salka also has a long overall tenure at her company, AMN Healthcare Services. She joined the company in 1990 and served in several other executive positions before becoming CEO in 2005. Susan earned the honor of CEO of the Year by CEO Connection, a membership organization for CEOs of Mid-Market companies.

“Under her leadership, AMN has become known as the innovator in healthcare workforce solutions and the largest and most diversified healthcare staffing company in the nation,” according to her company profile. Indeed, AMN Healthcare Services has recently launched its user-friendly mobile app, AMN Passport, developed specifically for healthcare professionals to manage appointments and tasks on the go. The announcement added to its stock price in September 2020 as the company enters the forefront of healthcare IT.

Cheryl Blanchard, Ph.D., President & Chief Executive Officer, Anika Therapeutics

After becoming a board member in August 2018 and interim CEO on February 2020, Dr. Blanchard was appointed to CEO on April 26, 2020. Unlike Susan Salka, Dr. Blanchard was the CEO of another company, Microchips Biotech, Inc., before becoming interim CEO at Anika. Microchips Biotech was sold to Daré Bioscience, Inc in November 2019. Anika Therapeutics’ financial performance has not been wholly remarkable; but Anika is a top vendor in the facial rejuvenation products market, which is expected to see considerable growth over the next five years.

Age, Tenure, and Gender All Point to an Unfolding Sea Change

If we look at healthcare organizations from the study with the lowest female-to-male ratio of board members, we can see they also tend to have higher average ages among their board members. The 9 organizations with female-to-male ratios of 12.5% or lower have average ages ranging from roughly 60 to 70, where the median for the study was roughly 63.

Three of the most over-tenured companies are Henry Schein Inc (HSIC), with over 14 years tenure on average; Bio Rad Laboratories Inc (BIO), with over 15 years tenure on average; and HealthStream Inc (HSTM), with over 20 years tenure on average. They all include board members who also hold leadership positions within their companies as well. The chairs at both Bio Rad Laboratories Inc and HealthStream Inc are also the companies’ CEOs. Meanwhile, most of Henry Schein’s board members are company executives, which is highly unusual.

On the other hand, healthcare organizations with higher female-to-male ratios of board members tend to have boards with lower average tenures. The 9 healthcare organizations featuring boards with a 37.5% or higher female-to-male ratio have boards with average tenures ranging from roughly 3 to roughly 10 years, where the highest average tenures in the entire study reach as high as 24 years.

The four companies with female CEOs also feature boards with average tenures of roughly 10 or fewer years. (DaVita Inc, the only company in the study with a female chair, has a board with an average tenure of roughly 9 years.)

Both ends of the spectrum suggest the industry is trending towards more female representation on boards—those with smaller average tenures mean newer members, where their female members are more likely to be new.


Increasing female leadership diversity in healthcare isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s healthy for companies, it may provide tangible benefits for healthcare organizations, and it certainly drives positive PR as companies look to differentiate themselves in the eyes of investors, customers, and consumers.

Although causality here is far from proven, market results suggest at least evening the female-to-male ratio within healthcare governance and leadership may drive better performance. Broad trends in consumer sentiments tell the same story. That means companies with greater female representation can move forward with confidence as they set better examples for their employees and enjoy a greater diversity of voices at the top levels of their organizations.