Advancing women in healthcare leadership: A systematic review and meta-synthesis of multi-sector evidence on organisational interventions

Elsevier, EClinicalMedicine, Volume 39, September 2021
Mousa M., Boyle J., Skouteris H., Mullins A.K., Currie G., Riach K. et al.

Background: Women are underrepresented in healthcare leadership, yet evidence on impactful organisational strategies, practices and policies that advance women's careers are limited. We aimed to explore these across sectors to gain insight into measurably advancing women in leadership in healthcare. Methods: A systematic review was performed across Medline via OVID; Medline in-process and other non-indexed citations via OVID; PsycINFO and SCOPUS from January 2000 to March 2021. Methods are outlined in a published protocol registered a priori on PROSPERO (CRD42020162115). Eligible studies reported on organisational interventions for advancing women in leadership with at least one measurable outcome. Studies were assessed independently by two reviewers. Identified interventions were organised into categories and meta-synthesis was completed following the ‘ENhancing Transparency in REporting the synthesis of Qualitative research’ (ENTREQ) statement. Findings: There were 91 eligible studies from 6 continents with 40 quantitative, 38 qualitative and 13 mixed methods studies. These spanned academia, health, government, sports, hospitality, finance and information technology sectors, with around half of studies in health and academia. Sample size, career stage and outcomes ranged broadly. Potentially effective interventions consistently reported that organisational leadership, commitment and accountability were key drivers of organisational change. Organisational intervention categories included i) organisational processes; ii) awareness and engagement; iii) mentoring and networking; iv) leadership development; and v) support tools. A descriptive meta-synthesis of detailed strategies, policies and practices within these categories was completed. Interpretation: This review provides an evidence base on organisational interventions for advancing women in leadership across diverse settings, with lessons for healthcare. It transcends the focus on the individual to target organisational change, capturing measurable change across intervention categories. This work directly informs a national initiative with international links, to enable women to achieve their career goals in healthcare and moves beyond the focus on barriers to solutions.