Understanding the Gender Landscape in Health Tech
According to a 2019 report by Oliver Wyman, only 30 percent of c-suite positions in healthtech firms are held by women. A mere 13 percent of health tech corporations have female CEOs, and just 9 percent of healthtech startup founders are women.
It’s a reality that Vault’s National Medical Director Jennifer Peña, MD, FACP, knows all too well. Before joining Vault, she served as chief medical officer at K Health and Nurx, and as medical director for virtual primary care for Oscar Medical Group.
“Health tech is a field that has historically been dominated by white men. There aren’t a lot of female healthtech leaders. In fact, there are so few that we all kind of know each other,” Dr. Peña said. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunities I’ve had to work in these executive level positions – to be able to help effect change from the top.”
The healthcare leadership gender gap is even more prominent when you consider how engaged women are in the healthcare industry from both an employee and a consumer perspective. Women make up 65 percent of the healthcare industry’s workforce – significantly outpacing several other large industries, notably technology, in which women make up less than one-third of the workforce. Equally relevant, 80 percent of consumer buying decisions about healthcare are made by women.
Driving Awareness and Action to Close the Gender Gap in Health Tech
Ultimately, leveling the playing field and changing the environment in health tech will rely on increased awareness and require health tech companies to take more purposeful, collaborative action.(2) And Dr. Peña agrees.
“Conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion have become prevalent in medicine and healthtech. As a company, you can’t talk about it authentically if you’re not diversifying your own teams – not just physicians, but executives as well,” she said.
Dr. Peña points to several areas of growth for health tech firms, including recruiting and pay parity. “It takes being strong advocates for ourselves as women, but there also has to be change at the c-suite level,” she said.
To truly embody inclusivity, health tech firms must take concrete action. One example is to have employee resource groups to represent and lift up the needs and perspectives of specific employee populations. “It’s important to have executive leaders as sponsors, representing and showing support for employee resource groups at the senior leadership level,” Dr. Peña said.
Another way to walk the inclusivity talk is to expand the nature of the care and research Vault delivers. “As Vault evolves from its roots in men’s health, we are looking to diversify to include not only more men of color, but also women in the clinical trial work we take on,” Dr. Peña said.
“Thinking ‘inclusivity-first’ is part of what sets us apart at Vault when it comes to our approach to decentralized clinical trials. Inclusivity is not just something to incorporate into clinical research – the research needs to be inherently inclusive. And I think that’s something we’re doing at Vault.”
- Denend, L., McCutcheon, S., Regan, M., Sainz, M., Yock, P., & Azagury, D. (2020). Analysis of Gender Perceptions in Health Technology: A Call to Action. Annals of Biomedical Engineering, 48(5), 1573–1586. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10439-020-02478-0
Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be relied upon for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, dial 911 immediately.
DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be relied upon for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, dial 911 immediately.