DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Aganette Parks and Maria Morales Menendez are both young women, newly promoted to health care leadership positions.
"I definitely see the change, shift, happening here," Parks said.
"In society, I think we're moving towards more acceptability of women in the workforce, women in leadership, women of color," Morales Menendez said.
Parks, 29, is the associate administrator of Delray Medical Center.
"I've seen a huge change in acceptance in not just age or race or sex, but more so about your skill set and what you're able to offer," she said.
Morales Menendez, 25, is the chief operating officer at Delray Medical Center.
"While I was in my MBA (Master of Business Administration) program, I had expectations of what it would be like to be a woman of color, a woman walking into business and health care, in general, as a leader, so I think I walked in with my own biases and expectations of how I would need to act in order to be accepted or feel like I was included in the group," she said. "But that was not something that was difficult here."
Maggie Gill, the CEO of the Palm Beach Health Network, called these efforts "intentional."
"Being in leadership for a couple decades now, I've seen that leadership doesn't always represent the community that it serves in terms of what it looks like," she said.
A McKinsey study on women in the workplace showed that, in 2021, just 30% of so-called "C-suite" members are female for the health care industry.
"I remember, you know, when I was 28 years old, and it was my first time CFO job, I was the only person that looked like me in the room," Gill said.
Making it her mission to expand gender and diversity in leadership, Gill said, she takes pride in the fact that close to 70% of the top executives in the Palm Beach Health network are female.
"It's a big difference," she said.
The hospital group includes Delray Medical Center, Good Samaritan Medical Center, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Palm Beach Children's Hospital, St. Mary's Medical Center and West Boca Medical Center.
Gill said, including herself, four out of five CEOs in the hospital group are female.
A few years ago, she said, it "looked a lot different."
"The numbers were probably closer to what the national average was," she said.
Gill said she is passionate about this topic.
"I think some of that comes from personal experience, you know, experiencing bias in my own career," she said.
Gill called it "reaching-in."
"To find those people who have potential, who may not, again, look like your typical executive, and helping them develop at an individual level," she said. "I thought, 'Wow, we're an industry of primarily women workers in hospitals, and there seems to be a gap here in terms of how we're represented in leadership.'"
A so-called map may be in the works now.
"We serve a diverse population," Parks said. "So I think it's important that your leadership is reflective of that."
"I grew up without having, really, a blueprint," Morales Menendez said. "I think, often, with men and leadership, you have a lot of representation in the community, you know, that I can aspire to be like X, Y or Z. For me, it was difficult to find someone to idolize or to work towards."
Gill said more needs to be done to bridge the gap.
"I think as an industry, obviously, there is work to do," she said. "I think the journey is never over."