Women chairs in academic medicine: Engendering strategic intuition

Carol Isaac*, Lindsay Griffin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose - Because stereotypically masculine behaviors are required for effective leadership, examining female chairs’ leadership in academic medicine can provide insight into the complex ways in which gender impacts on their leadership practices. The paper aims to discuss this issue. Design/methodology/approach - The author interviewed three female clinical chairs and compared the findings to interviews with 28 of their faculty. Grounded theory analysis of the subsequent text gathered comprehensive, systematic, and in-depth information about this case of interest at a US top-tier academic medical center. Findings - Four of five themes from the faculty were consistent with the chair’s narrative with modifications: Prior Environment (Motivated by Excellence), Tough, Direct, Transparent (Developing Trust), Communal Actions (Creating Diversity of Opinion), and Building Power through Consensus (an “Artful Exercise”) with an additional theme, the Significance (and Insignificance) of a Female Chair. While faculty members were acutely aware of the chair’s gender, the chairs paradoxically vacillated between gender being a “non-issue” and noting that male chairs “don’t do laundry.” All three female chairs in this study independently and explicitly stated that gender was not a barrier, yet intuitively used successful strategies derived from the research literature. Originality/value - This study suggests that while their gender was highlighted by faculty, these women dismissed gender as a “non-issue.” The duality of gender for these three female leaders was both minimized and subtly affirmed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-514
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Health Organization and Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 15 2015


  • Gender
  • Grounded theory
  • Hospital management
  • Leadership
  • Management development
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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