Rising to the Top: AMN Healthcare Helps Women Break through the Glass Ceiling

By Amanda Sounart, associate editor

Vying for a senior leadership role in any industry requires years of hard work and dedication. However, for women working at California’s top 400 companies, that may not be enough. Half of the state’s largest public companies do not have women in executive offices, according to a report recently released by the University of California, Davis, and another half do not have women serving on their board of directors.

In its fourth annual report, UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders: A Census of Women Directors and Executive Officers, the university reviewed the progress that women have made at breaking through the proverbial “glass ceiling” that prevents them from achieving high ranking positions because of their gender.

“The report is drawn from the 400 largest public companies in California and examines the number of women holding positions as board directors or as executive officers in those companies,” said Marcia Faller, RN, MSN, chief clinical officer and executive vice president for AMN Healthcare. Faller served as a panelist the university’s symposium “UC Davis Census--Women in Corporate Leadership: Action Plan for Change,” where the study’s results were released.

“The researchers found that only 10.9 percent of these positions are held by women--up from 10.4 percent a year ago,” noted Faller. “This metric is similar to numbers reported nationally by state, though in many areas, California businesses are not looking as good as other states.”

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Only 13 of the companies listed in the UC Davis report had female CEOs.
  • Eleven percent of board seats and executive positions are held by women. Of the companies that do have women in top management, only about 29 percent have two women on the executive team.
  • Twenty-six percent have three or more women on the executive team.
  • Women hold only 12 percent of the senior executive leadership positions at the state’s top 400 companies.
  • Industries such as electronics, real estate, telecommunications, industrial, food and leisure were more likely to have male-only executive teams.

AMN Healthcare, however, has been leveling the playing field. Noted as one of the top five companies in the report, 36.4 percent of the company’s executive suite is occupied by women, including the company’s CEO, Susan Nowakowski. In addition, the company has two women serving on its board of directors. AMN also came in first for San Diego County for the percentage of women directors and executive officers.

“Many of our leadership positions are held by women,” said Faller. “We have a formal mentoring program in which we engage all of our leaders. In addition, because of our female friendly culture, we actively seek out women candidates when hiring externally for positions as well as internally.”

Nationally, women play a large role in the healthcare industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 78.7 percent of the positions in healthcare and social assistance programs are held by women. However, despite the large number of women in the industry, few are rising to the top. The UC Davis study found that in healthcare, only 9.8 percent of directors were women, and only three of the top 25 companies--including AMN--on the list were in the healthcare industry. Healthcare also ranked in ninth place for companies with one or more female executive officers.

AMN Healthcare is the nation’s largest healthcare staffing company, and has continually promoted diversity throughout the company. Throughout the company, over 48 percent of the leadership positions from director to senior vice presidents are held by female employees.

“We’ve always tried to keep our recruitment policies as fair and balanced as possible,” said Susan Nowakowski, AMN's president and CEO. “We want all of our employees to grow both personally and professionally and promote based on merit, not gender. It’s an environment that continually fosters high achievements and has earned us several workplace excellence awards.”


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