But they are paid less and have often given up marriage and children to make it to the top, the first- ever survey of senior managers' careers in the NHS, Creative Career Paths in the NHS, has shown.
On a day when Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, upset some managers by telling them 'to overcome their image problem', the survey showed that a typical top manager was male, 46, married with two children over 15, works 56 hours a week, has a degree and health service qualification and earns pounds 50,000 to pounds 59,000 a year.
Evenso, 19 per cent of the top 900 managers are women and they tend to be younger than the men, aged 42 on average. They are better qualified, 73 per cent having a first degree or higher, against 67 per cent for the men.
The Department of Health target is to see women make up 30 per cent of all general managers by the end of the year.
Having no children and being single appears to increase women's likelihood of reaching senior managerial posts. Half the women had no children, compared with 8 per cent of the men; 23 per cent of the women, but only 22 per cent of the men, were single.