Celebrating our founders on International Women's Day

March 8, 2019 Rod Hochman

The original empowered women, our founders established health care and social services in the Western U.S.

I love to ask people this question. Can you name another $24 billion organization founded by women 160 years ago that has grown to serve millions of people in need every year? Our founding sisters – the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange – were courageous, pioneering women who built hospitals, schools and orphanages across the American West when it was still a rugged frontier. 

They were hugely responsible for establishing health care and social services as we know it in the Western U.S. And their legacy lives on today through the 118,000 caregivers of Providence St. Joseph Health. This International Women’s Day, we celebrate our remarkable founders who have always been a source of healing love in the world and who have never been afraid to speak out and take action against inequality and injustice. 

As an organization founded by empowered women, PSJH continues to empower women today. For example, we are relentlessly focused on women’s health during pregnancy and childbirth and are working hard to reverse the alarming trend in mothers dying in labor in the United States. Thanks to the incredible work of our clinicians, Providence St. Joseph Health had zero maternal deaths in childbirth in 2017 and one in 2018 (out of the 140,000 deliveries we perform each year.) 

We are also committed to doing our part to stopping human trafficking, a crime against humanity that primarily targets women. For many victims, their only encounter with the outside world is when they need to get care in an emergency department or women’s clinic. Our caregivers have gone through extensive training to recognize the signs of human trafficking and have already helped several women escape harrowing situations. 

With a 70 percent female workforce and an executive leadership team that is also predominantly women, I am proud that last year we were named the eighth best place to work for women by Forbes magazine. I’m also proud of the work our team has done around our “Not Here” movement – PSJH’s response to Me Too – to root out harassment of any kind. 

Last year, PSJH was invited to the United Nations to participate in a summit on the UN’s sustainable development goal around empowering women and girls. Our message to the UN was clear: Women are the key to our vision of health for a better world because women are the health managers of the world – the ones who are primarily responsible for the health of children, spouses and aging parents, as well as their own health. 

This International Women’s Day, we join in celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Although we still have a way to go as a society, our founders taught us that anything is possible. They never gave up on the dream for a more balanced, equal and loving world – and neither will we. 


About the Author

Rod Hochman

Rod Hochman is president and CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health, a national, Catholic, not-for-profit health system, comprising a diverse family of organizations serving Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

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