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Exploring perceived barriers for advancement to leadership positions in healthcare: a thematic synthesis of women's experiences

Alexandra Claire Haines (School of Health Sciences, City University of London, London, UK)
Eamonn McKeown (School of Health Sciences, City University of London, London, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 28 March 2023

Issue publication date: 17 May 2023

643

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore the voices of women describing the perceived barriers for advancing to leadership positions in healthcare.

Design/methodology/approach

A systematic search was conducted through Elton B Stephans Company (EBSCO) host research platform using the databases Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) Complete, Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online (MEDLINE) Complete and American Psychological Association (APA) PsycInfo. Nine papers were selected for this review. Thomas and Harden's (2008) method of thematic synthesis was used drawing from eight qualitative papers and one mixed methods paper describing women's lived experiences in, or advancing to, leadership positions in the healthcare sector. Analysis was conducted using three steps of thematic synthesis: the inductive coding of the text, the development of descriptive themes and the generation of analytical themes.

Findings

Through the method of thematic synthesis, six descriptive themes (barriers) emerged: internalised feelings, work–life balance, lack of support, stereotypes, discriminatory behaviours and organisational culture. From these, three analytical themes were identified: personal, interpersonal and organisational.

Research limitations/implications

This review looked at nine papers and documented women's voices. However, the women were in disparate geographical areas across the world and did not consider the specific cultural context in which the women were located. The healthcare sector is very large, and therefore, whilst there are shared commonalities, the disparateness could be a limitation.

Practical implications

Barriers were categorised as either structural barriers or attitudinal barriers to determine the policy and practice.

Originality/value

This research is crucial to better understanding what remedies need to be implemented to address gender disparity in the sector.

Keywords

Citation

Haines, A.C. and McKeown, E. (2023), "Exploring perceived barriers for advancement to leadership positions in healthcare: a thematic synthesis of women's experiences", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 360-378. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHOM-02-2022-0053

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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