Next Up Podcast: How to dominate in a male-dominated industry

Hello and welcome to Modern Healthcare’s Next Up, the podcast for emerging healthcare leaders. My name is Kadesha Smith. I’m your host, and I’m also the CEO of CareContent, a digital marketing agency for healthcare organizations.

Today, we will be discussing the lack of parity between men and women in healthcare leadership. In the U.S., about 80% of healthcare workers are women, but fewer than 20% hold key leadership positions.

This is also something we’ll be addressing at the upcoming Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare Conference, which takes place July 22nd and 23rd. At the end of this episode, I’ll share a 15% off discount code.
For this conversation, though, we’ll dive into how we women are often our own worst enemy when it comes to pursuing a leadership role. I have worked with women who are easily the smartest and most talented in their field — yet they still struggle with insecurity when it’s time to step into a leadership position, or when they’re pursuing a role in a male-dominated field.

In this episode, we’ll be speaking with Patty McClimon, the Senior Vice President of Strategic and Facilities Planning for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She was recently named one of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women Leaders, and Patty will be discussing with us how to dominate in a male-dominated industry — from self-assessments to overcoming insecurities.

SPONSOR MESSAGE: Before we get into our discussion, I’d like to acknowledge OnTrak, the sponsor of this episode.

Ontrak is a behavioral healthcare company that identifies people who need more care and treats them for up to 52 weeks. With therapist-led care, members return to health. Payers get a return on investment.

Learn more, save more, help more at

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Now, let’s get into our conversation with Patty McClimon on how women can rise to senior leadership at healthcare organizations — even in male-dominated fields.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Hello, Patty McClimon. How are you doing?

PATTY MCCLIMON: I’m well, thanks. How are you, Kadesha?

MODERN HEALTHCARE: I am doing well. Thank you so much for making the time to discuss this topic. Modern Healthcare is leading up to its conference, and I think this is an important topic to talk about for women who find themselves in male-dominated spaces, and maybe want to know how to best navigate those spaces. And I think you’re the perfect person for this conversation.

PATTY MCCLIMON: Yeah. Thank you.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Well, let’s start with a few data points just to, kind of, guide our discussion, and then we’ll get into some questions. We know that women make up 66% of entry-level healthcare employees, but Modern Healthcare reports that they only make up 30% of C-suite positions. And when we’re talking about CEOs, that number drops to 13%.

Modern Healthcare also reports that in a survey by Korn Ferry, 54% of the respondents believe that women do not self-promote as much as men do. And when they do ask for raises, females generally request 30% less than males, according to a study from Carnegie Mellon. And then the last point I want to mention is that women were notably absent from early decision-making during the pandemic. In national task forces from nearly 90 countries, including the US, more than 85% contained mostly men.

Let’s start with just talking about you and your path at Nationwide Children’s. How many women work with you and did you have any nervousness, trepidation about working in a predominantly male field?

PATTY MCCLIMON: Sure. So, I am the Chief Strategy Officer at Nationwide Children’s, which includes all of our engineering and facilities, and facilities planning. I also have a couple of other areas in my portfolio and it is very clear from those other areas — which include strategic planning, data, population health — that engineering is the discipline with the fewest number of women in it. So in my other areas, I have lots of women. Probably in leadership levels, 50% women. But of the entire engineering department of over 400 people — which includes down to painters and mechanics and electricians — there is less than 10% women.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: When you think about women who are aspiring to leadership, especially in engineering or a male-dominated field, do you think there are any ways that women tend to self-sabotage or shrink back from really pursuing those roles?

PATTY MCCLIMON: Your question has a couple of different layers and so I’m going to address the easier part which is — this is a problem that goes back to girls in schooling when you look at the engineering side of things. So, just the number of women graduating from engineering and mathematically based — whether that’s architecture or other construction trades programs — is significantly less than women graduating from other healthcare professions. So, nursing, physicians — we are a Children’s Hospital, so we actually have more than 50% of our physicians are women because women are selecting into pediatrics at a higher rate.

But when you go to engineering, it comes back to girls not being encouraged in math and science and not choosing those fields. And they are fields ripe with the need for various viewpoints. I mean, they are traditionally white male fields, as well. So, the lack of diversity comes through in not just gender. But as we look at it, I think that the opportunity there is to continue to encourage early exploration of math and science fields for girls.

And then also, not every child is going to be on a college degree path. But how many girls are being encouraged to think about becoming an electrician? Which is a well-paying — you know, especially in this current environment. Electricians in Ohio are making $90-100,000 a year. More than nurses quite frankly, and both are science-related fields. I mean, you have to be a computer technician to be an electrician these days. And so, we need to be thinking about it that way, as well.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: That’s a good point.

PATTY MCCLIMON: I do think that women self-sabotage. And I think that they do it in a couple of ways besides not being encouraged in school. Women tend to take the administrative roles. They’ll take the notes at the meeting, they’ll bring in the cookies, they’ll do those nurturing things, which quite frankly, I do. But are fine as long as then, you balance those with more assertive roles. And I think women self-sabotage by falling into those more administrative roles, and I think they self-sabotage by being apologetic.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Being apologetic, absolutely.

PATTY MCCLIMON: That’s a big one. Isn’t it?

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Being direct might actually be what’s needed.


MODERN HEALTHCARE: So, when women are self-assessing their demeanor or behavior, especially when it relates to how they interact with their male colleagues — you’ve already said one, apologizing. What are some other things they should check for?

PATTY MCCLIMON: I think that women really need to give themselves pep talks and walk in with confidence. I have experience with someone who works for me, who apologized about asking for a raise. So, she had gotten up the courage to come in and have that crucial conversation but then was apologetic about it. And her male counterpart had also had that conversation but wasn’t at all apologetic and, in fact, was entitled.


PATTY MCCLIMON: You know, I had the conversation and I said you know what? You deserve more, and you need to be asking for more and here’s why. You know, you did these things and you’re ready for the next step. You could leave if you want to and so think of this as a re-recruitment of you. And having that mindset of saying, I’m gonna go in and be re-recruited because I bring value to the organization. And know your value. A good person asking for a raise should know what the market bears, be able to clearly quantify their skill set of what they have brought. It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, so they should speak to specific examples and lean in. Don’t apologize. You know, you don’t have to call the bluff, but you can say, “I know if I were on the open market, I would be recruited for this.”

MODERN HEALTHCARE: And sometimes just having that knowledge gives you the confidence. Right? You’re not talking a stab in the dark. You know that what you’re asking for is realistic.


MID-SPONSOR MESSAGE: Before we continue our discussion, I’d like to again recognize Ontrak, the sponsor of today’s episode.
With just 5% of people accounting for 44% of healthcare costs, Ontrak identifies and treats those people for up to 52 weeks. With this unique sort of support, your members can achieve true behavior change and better health that can last a lifetime.
Learn more, save more, help more. Visit
Now, let’s get back to our discussion.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: So, on a similar note, many women also get nervous about speaking up, holding firm, to a recommendation or something that they are requesting, but they don’t wanna be seen as bossy. They don’t want to be seen as aggressive. How does this work for you? How do you find that balance between speaking your mind, commanding respect, and then when necessary, finding a middle ground?

PATTY MCCLIMON: I always try to use an approach that I’d describe as relentlessly pleasant. So, you can be firm without being offensive, and it’s a hard balance. And especially as women, since we beat ourselves up for not wanting to offend people, you can be very pleasant and still be firm. You know, I hear you but what I’m saying is this — and don’t back down. It helps if you have a little bit of stubbornness in you, but if you can, find a balance that’s comfortable for you.

And the other thing that I would tell younger women that I’m working with is, they need to know their style. Don’t apologize for it, but you can even share your style. Hey, this is a hard conversation for me and I tend to sometimes express emotion when I’m nervous or anxious. So if I do that, that doesn’t mean I’m not serious or that I’m not doing this. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, and here is my goal. Call yourself out on it. Allow yourself to have the reaction that you may have naturally, but don’t allow that reaction to impede your goal.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: This reminds me of — I have a 4-year-old daughter. She does not back down. She will come up with alternatives to get what she wants and will remind you — if you’ve committed — that you have not followed through.

PATTY MCCLIMON: Right. The things that drive you crazy as a parent are the things that
you’re going to really appreciate as an employer.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Let’s talk a little bit about the pandemic and how, you know, many men had to take on responsibilities at home with homeschooling, working from home. How do you think that a shift in the home and family dynamic could impact this gender dynamic in leadership positions?

PATTY MCCLIMON: The shift in the family dynamic opens the eyes of many of the partners of the world as to the infamous second shift that many, many women carry in terms of being the primary school teacher, caregiver — once the children are not at their other care accommodations. Being the primary cook, being the primary grocery shopper — all of those small little things, they are a huge chunk of time. And I am optimistic that men have realized it and realized that in even the most equal of partnerships, people fall into roles. And they don’t have to be traditional roles, but they are roles, nonetheless, and it’s your comfort zone. And appreciating the effort of that comfort zone on the other partner’s side is really important to making it work.

I sometimes teach a class — I’m in Columbus, Ohio and Ohio State as a woman in construction. They have a construction management degree, but there’s a group of women there who are definitely the minority and so I serve as a mentor to some of them. The first thing I tell them is, you can’t expect someone to know what you need. You have to ask for it. While I’m optimistic that partners may have realized all of the load that women are carrying, they still need to ask for the help. You need to say, “I need you to pick up Joey from soccer.” Or “Why don’t you stop at the grocery on the way home?” Because if you don’t do that, then the burden falls on you.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Absolutely. Last question then — and I mean we’re talking specifically about fields like engineering where we’re not seeing a lot of representation from women. What are your thoughts on what will happen if we don’t see more gender parity in healthcare leadership, especially in these more male-dominated areas? What risks are we taking by continuing with the status quo?

PATTY MCCLIMON: Ultimately, we’re risking the health outcomes of our patients and clients. So, if people don’t understand that a female perspective can be a more compassionate perspective. It can be — it doesn’t even have to be considered better or worse, but just a different perspective, whether it’s a mother caring for her child — I mentioned I am in pediatric healthcare. Or often the woman may outlive the man, so it might be an elderly female. Whatever the perspective, not having women who have experienced that in the decision-making chairs is going to impact the way you build your facility, the way you staff your facility, the way you think about holistic care. And the company’s that embrace the female perspective are going to do better financially.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: So, health outcomes and finances.

PATTY MCCLIMON: I believe so. If you ignore or certainly don’t consider the experience and walk in the shoes of 50% of the population, that 50% is going to choose different locations for their care, choose alternative types of care. And not be able to get to their best health outcome for themselves and their family. And don’t forget, women are typically the care decision-makers in families.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: For themselves, but also their aging parents and their children.

PATTY MCCLIMON: Exactly. It’s multi-generational.

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for this insight. We look forward to hearing more from you, and thank you for being a mentor to other women in this field.

PATTY MCCLIMON: Well thank you, Kadesha. This was fun.

OUTRO COMMENTS: Thank you, Patty McClimon, for that insight and those observations. It’s always best to hear from someone who can speak from their own experience, and speak from how they’ve helped mentor others. As this pandemic winds down, lack of parity is one norm that we can’t afford to go back to.

Again, I’m your host, Kadesha Smith, CEO of CareContent. We help health systems reach their key audiences online through digital strategy, content, and optimization.

We’d also like to again thank this episode’s sponsor, Ontrak.

We’ll be expanding on this topic at the Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare conference. That’s July 22nd through the 23rd. And if you register with the code, NextUp, you’ll receive a 15% discount off the conference fee and any add-on conference opportunities. To register, go to
Look for more episodes of Next Up at, or subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or your preferred podcatcher. Thanks so much for listening.