Healthcare is the backbone of every country. Healthcare professionals work around the clock, committed to the mission of providing care for patients. According to WHO, women make up 70% of the workforce in the healthcare sector. Yet, women, particularly women of colour, are underrepresented in leadership positions.
While the healthcare industry fares much better than other industries when it comes to female representation, a glance at the representation across the pipeline reveals that the share of women declines as we move up the positions from entry-level to senior roles. Today, many women make the majority of front-line healthcare decisions. However, they only make up about 30% of the healthcare sector's leaders. There is a significant drop in the share of women, from a lower level to a higher level. Most female healthcare workers are stuck in entry-level jobs and are denied senior positions in management. Furthermore, women are less likely to be promoted and paid equally. Even if they possess formal training and the necessary qualifications, their hard work is not always rewarded. Research and reports also made note of the fact that there is occupational segregation by gender in the health sector that is prevalent throughout the world. Around 84% of nurses and midwives are women, whereas the percentage of female physicians and specialists is much lower. Consequently, occupational segregation widens the gender pay gap, which is already larger than in many other sectors.
When working in a professional setting, women encounter unique challenges that their male colleagues do not recognise or fail to empathise with. Women being the minority in decision-making positions means that the policies enacted are less likely to be sympathetic to the female workforce. Being in the minority also means that they do not have enough power to bring in the changes that women workers will benefit from.
Gender inequality has further consequences, especially on the patient's side. Many female patients have reported that it takes a long time for them to be properly diagnosed because medical professionals keep dismissing their symptoms. Despite making up almost half of the world population, not enough research has been done on female anatomy and the diseases most likely to affect them in particular. The female body may also react differently to drugs than male bodies do. From the lack of access to healthcare, high medical costs, to inadequate research and the dismissal of female pain, healthcare gender bias has devastating effects on women, especially lower-class women and women of color. Therefore, involving women in healthcare is not only important; it is absolutely necessary. More than half of the patients are female, and they should be involved in the solutions that affect them. It is only logical that women proportionately contribute to and lead the healthcare field.
Health technology is the future of healthcare. A lot of jobs in the future will be automated. In the present day, a lot of healthcare is reliant upon cutting-edge technologies that provide solutions for a variety of problems. It is important for women to have representation in the healthcare technology sector because they possess intrinsic knowledge regarding women’s needs. For far too long, men have dominated healthcare technology while women make more use of healthcare. Providing healthcare alone is insufficient. We need more women in leadership roles both in the healthcare sector and in health technology.
How can we achieve this?
Firstly, we need to promote gender diversity among healthcare professionals, management, hiring bodies, and health technology. Gender diversity is especially important in coming up with solutions to treat conditions that disproportionately affect women. This enables companies to market to female patients more authentically and responsibly.
Secondly, we need to inspire the next generation by promoting successful female leaders in the healthcare industry. This will create interest in women who aspire to have a leading role in healthcare and will envision themselves in powerful positions. Trailblazers like Emma Walmsley, Madeline Bell, Zsuzsanna Jakab, and Gail Koziara Boudreaux have been lighting the way for future generations to follow. Seeing them, more women will be inspired and start seeing these roles as an option for themselves. This can have real added value to women’s health and society.
Thirdly, we require more female trainers to train the staff. Women like to be trained by women because they want their anxieties and insecurities addressed. In many countries, women working in the healthcare field do not have advanced training. This limits them from pursuing leadership roles that require higher qualifications. In some cases, they do not have any training at all. Promoting education and training for these workers will have an overall positive effect on the entire society. Women hold around 30% of leadership positions in healthcare, but if they held more leadership roles, they could have an empowering ripple effect on the healthcare workforce. As leaders, women are more likely to hire and recognise the potential of other women. One can only imagine the possibilities with more women involved. It has the power to revolutionise the healthcare industry. This means better healthcare for patients, more opportunities for women in the healthcare industry, and even stronger economies. The human population is growing exponentially, and there aren’t enough healthcare workers to provide medical care for them. More jobs will need to be created to meet the growing demand. Women are more than willing to be on the frontlines, so it is our duty to give them the support they need.