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Managing gender diversity in healthcare: getting it right

Paul Vanderbroeck (PVDB Consulting, Geneva, Switzerland)
Jean-Blaise Wasserfallen (Medical directorate, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne, Switzerland)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 6 February 2017




Diversity, notably gender diversity, is growing in health care, both at the level of teams and the level of organizations. This paper aims to describe the challenges for team leaders and leaders of organizations to manage this diversity. The authors believe that more could be done to help leaders master these challenges in a way that makes diverse teams and organizations more productive.


Drawing on previously published research, using gender diversity as an example, the paper first describes how diversity can both have a positive and a negative influence on team productivity. Next, it describes the challenge of gender diversity at an organizational level, using Switzerland as an example.


The first part of the paper espouses the causes of gender diversity, undoes some of the myths surrounding diversity and presents a model for effective management of diversity in teams. The second part looks at gender diversity at an organizational level. Drawing from sources inside and outside healthcare, the effects of the “leaking pipeline”, “glass wall” and “glass ceiling” that prevent health-care organizations from leveraging the potential of female talent are discussed.

Practical implications

The authors propose a model developed for intercultural teamwork as a framework for leveraging gender diversity for better team productivity. Proposals are offered to health-care organizations on how they can tip the gender balance at senior levels into their favor, so as to get the maximum benefit from the available talent.


Applying the “how to” ideas and recommendations from this general review will help leaders of health-care organizations gain a better return on investment from their talent development as well as to increase the productivity of their workforce by a better use of diverse talent.



Vanderbroeck, P. and Wasserfallen, J.-B. (2017), "Managing gender diversity in healthcare: getting it right", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 92-100.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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