Statistics show that 78 percent of healthcare workers are women but only 40 percent of them are in executive positions. What does it take to be a female leader in the health care industry?

Karen Prange and Bridget A. Ross, executives at Henry Schein, Inc., a health care products and services company, are weighing in on the topic. Henry Schein’s animal health and medical businesses account for nearly 48 percent of the Fortune 300 company’s business, and together, Prange and Ross are making their mark.

“Evidence is mounting that women leaders drive very successful and efficient companies,” says Ross, Henry Schein’s global medical group president, who adds that women excel at being inclusive, showing empathy and listening to other points of view.

Overcoming obstacles

“People often make an assumption about women,” says Prange, executive vice president, CEO of global animal health, medical, and dental surgical group at Henry Schein

She says assumptions, which are often unintentional, can include the beliefs that women with kids or family obligations aren’t willing to move for a job and don’t have the capacity or interest in leadership roles.

Moving past those assumptions is a key to success.

“Be comfortable taking risks. Don’t be afraid to make changes.”

“We tend to be very motivated by challenge,” Ross says. “A lot of women I’ve met who’ve been successful have dared to declare their career ambitions and had advocates championing them.”

Women need to let their career interests be known.

Prange, a mother of two, urges women to find both female and male mentors for career advice, as well as sponsors who are “willing to speak up about you when you’re not in the room.”

“Sponsors in my career have advocated for opportunities that I may not have been aware of,” she says.

Finding balance

Women often worry about work-life balance.

“The reality is life and work are not always in balance,” says Ross, who has focused on integrating her work into her life instead of seeking balance.

Early in her career, Ross, who is a mother of three, received advice from a mentor: Juggle work and life, but the only ball you can’t drop is your family.  “That’s the only ball made of crystal and that will shatter.”

Ross has moved many times throughout her career. When she joined Henry Schein earlier this year, she knew the richness of its history and its values-driven ethos would be a good fit.

“What I’ve done is tried to find purpose-driven companies and purpose-driven roles really genuinely.”

Diversity and inclusion

Prange is grateful to be working in a company that values diversity among its key constituents – customers, supplier partners, investors, Team Schein Members and society at large.

She says workplaces will diversify even more as more women become decision-makers.

“Statistics show once you have a female leader, she will hire and develop a more diverse team,” says Prange, who encourages holding HR departments and recruiters accountable for finding a range of job candidates. “I’m a big believer in starting with a diverse slate of candidates and then hiring the best person for the role, regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other profile.”

Take risks

Women need to be curious about different roles and jobs.

“Be comfortable taking risks,” says Ross. “Don’t be afraid to make changes.”

Prange adds, “Push yourself and have fun along the way.”