5 Leading Women in Health Care

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Does the house of health care have a glass ceiling? For women looking to advance in the health care industry, that might appear to be the case. Consider that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 73% of medical and health services managers are women. However, only 4% of health care CEOs are female.

Despite the predominance of men at the highest levels in health care, several women serve as top executives in successful companies. Here are five leading women in the industry who are proving that it's not just a man's world.

Gail Boudreaux
Gail Boudreaux serves as CEO of United Healthcare and executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) . She was named CEO of United Healthcare in 2011 after serving as president of the business unit since 2008. United Healthcare is the largest division of UnitedHealth Group and generated more than $103 billion in revenue for 2012.

Boudreaux's previous experience included serving as executive vice president of Health Care Services Corporation. She also was president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. Earlier in her career, Boudreaux worked with Aetna in various capacities, including serving as senior vice president of Aetna Group Insurance and vice president of customer service.

Heather Bresch
Heather Bresch was named CEO of Mylan (NASDAQ: MYL  ) in 2012. At age 43, she is one of the youngest chief executives of a major corporation. Mylan ranks as the world's third-largest generic drugmaker and boasts a market cap of almost $12 billion with more than $7 billion in annual revenue.

Bresch joined Mylan 20 years ago -- starting even below the ground floor. Her first job with the company was to type labels for the company's quality assurance program. Bresch's office location? In the basement of Mylan's Morgantown, W. Va., facility. She quickly moved up the ladder (or stairs, in this case), advancing to chief operating officer before taking the helm as CEO.

Debra Cafaro
Debra Cafaro has served as CEO of large real estate investment trust Ventas (NYSE: VTR  ) since 1999. Ventas stands as the leading seniors housing and health care REIT in the nation and sports a market cap of more than $20 billion. The company's total shareholder return over the last decade exceeds 835%.

Cafaro headed another REIT, Ambassador Apartments, prior to joining Ventas. She also practiced real estate, financial, and corporate law for several years. Cafaro's honors include being named one of the country's top 10 CEOs by Forbes in 2010 and being selected by investors and analysts to Institutional Investor's "All American Executive Team" for the past two years.

Patricia Rice
Patricia Rice has held the position as president of Select Medical (NYSE: SEM  ) since 2005. She also served as chief operating officer for the company from 2005 until 2011. Select Medical is a leading provider of long-term acute care, inpatient medical rehabilitation, outpatient physical therapy, and contract therapy. The company generated revenue of nearly $3 billion in 2012.

Rice joined Select Medical in 1997 as senior vice president of hospital operations. Prior to that point, she served as the executive vice president of the hospital operations division for Continental Medical Systems.

Susan Siegel
Susan Siegel is the CEO of GE healthymagination and is corporate vice president of its parent company, GE (NYSE: GE  ) . Healthymagination is GE's $6 billion effort to address global health by funding products and solutions to meet significant health care challenges. At the end of 2012, there were 11 companies in the healthymagination portfolio.

Before joining GE, Siegel was a general partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures. In her capacity there, she led the firm in investing in multiple promising technologies such as molecular diagnostics and digital health. Siegel also previously served as president and director of Affymetrix. Her honors include being named one of "The 100 Most Influential Women in Silicon Valley."

Past the glass
All of these women have demonstrated exceptional executive abilities and helped their organizations grow. In particular, shareholders in Mylan and UnitedHealth should be thankful for these leaders. During the past five years, Mylan's shares gained more than 140%. UnitedHealth stock has more than doubled during the same period.

Of course, these five are representative of many other successful female executives in health care. Hopefully, young women looking to work in health care will see the achievements of these role models and be given the opportunities to move up, as these have. Perhaps more companies will recognize the talent within their ranks. As a dad with two daughters planning careers in the health care industry, count me among those who would like to see more executives like Gail Boudreaux, Heather Bresch, Debra Cafaro, Patricia Rice, and Susan Siegel -- and see fewer glass ceilings.

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