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January 9, 2017 Viewpoint

Health care needs more women leaders

Sherry Ellis

The limited number of females in positions of healthcare administration leadership attests to the challenges that exist for women.

The top 100 hospitals in the United States have only 21-percent females in leadership positions and 18 percent of hospital CEOs in the U.S. are women, despite women comprising more than half of the healthcare workforce.

For women, these challenges span professionally, personally and societally. Women are often socialized to be caretakers. This is even more common in women who have chosen the healthcare profession. Working in behavioral health care further emphasizes the need to be empathetic, understanding and supportive, further reinforcing the role of women as caretakers.

It is in these circumstances that women can be overlooked as leaders and business innovators. Finding the balance in the workplace and at home to hold roles as wife, mother, friend, employee, peer, boss and leader is a lifelong journey that requires hard work, constant growth, luck and support.

Challenging the view of women as solely caretaker and even challenging internal and external struggles regarding accepted female characteristics can hinder women in the workplace. I was fortunate enough to have been raised by parents who believed that males and females should learn every task that is needed to form independence. As my brothers were taught to do laundry, iron and cook beside me, I too joined my father on the roof with them repairing shingles.

The talk at our dinner table was about everything from our interests and school day to the business decisions that my father had made at his company that day. There were no boundaries set for women in my home then, neither are there any in my home now as we raised our children with the same philosophy.

Spectrum Health Systems possesses a strong history of delivering quality services to a population with high needs. The mission is consistent with the values that are so important to me. Spectrum’s commitment to leadership development for staff at all levels will benefit women throughout the organization and continue to solidify Spectrum Health System’s place as an employer of choice.

Being offered the opportunity to utilize my expertise and training to partner with a strong team in delivering high quality behavioral health and addictions treatment to those in need provides me with the ability to feel successful as both a caretaker and a leader.

I look forward to learning from the team at Spectrum Health Systems and to contributing to the mission.

Sherry Ellis in December was hired as the chief operating officer at Spectrum Health Systems, Inc., a Worcester nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a comprehensive continuum of evidenced-based treatment to help people overcome substance and opioid addiction.

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