The purpose of this paper is to examine the experiences of gender bias among women hospital CEOs and explore to what these female leaders attribute their success within a male-dominated hospital executive leadership milieu.
This qualitative study involved 12 women hospital CEOs from across Ontario, Canada. Purposeful sampling techniques and in-depth qualitative interview methods were used to facilitate discussion around experiences of gender and leadership.
Responses fell into two groups: the first group represented the statement “Gender inequality is alive and well”. The second group reflected the statement “Gender inequity is not significant, did not happen to me, and things are better now”. This group contained a sub-group with no consciousness of systemic discrimination and that claimed having no gendered experiences in their leadership journey. The first group described gender issues in various contexts, from the individual to the systemic. The second group was ambivalent about gender as a factor impacting leadership trajectories.
Representations of women’s leadership have become detached from feminism, with major consequences for women. This study reveals how difficult it is for some women CEOs to identify gender bias. The subtle everyday norms and practices within the workplace make it difficult to name and explain gender bias explicitly and may explain the challenges in understanding how it might affect a woman’s career path.