In the health sector, “women represent 71% of the global workforce and represent the majority (59%) of all medical, biomedical and health science degree graduates”. However the percentage of women declines (25% or less) as we go up the hierarchy with more men taking up managerial and leadership roles. Why?
As the International Women’s Day theme for 2022 reminds us, perhaps we have to #BreakTheBias.
In the health profession, women are not only judged for their technical ability and achievements - they are also judged on the basis of how their performance and image match societal and organizational standards of what a woman health leader should embody. This is called the double bind and it tells us that it doesn’t matter that a woman is the best neurosurgeon, nurse, healthcare analyst, etc.; it will only matter until other judgements such as the way she looks or carries herself match societal and organizational standards.
Because of such pressures, 70% of 43 million of women undersell their skills and don’t aim for leadership positions.
Additionally in 2017 it was reported that close to half of all female respondents working in health care believed it would take 25 years or longer to achieve gender parity on the job. Despite many research studies showing that women leaders in top management are linked to significantly increased profitability it remains difficult for women to advance in health care organizations.
To contextualize this further, women make up the majority of the healthcare workforce yet hold only 19% of hospital CEO positions, and they hold only 4% of healthcare companies.
Why is Building Power in this context important for women? Well, we know that women in leadership positions are more likely to recognize the potential of and hire other women. That means better health for patients, more opportunities for women in the healthcare industry and even stronger economies.
But if we don’t understand and mitigate these disparities today by 2030, millions of people won’t have access to a skilled health care worker, like a doctor, nurse, or midwife. And the burden of providing care is expected to fall unequally on women. Leadership and advocacy is the start of paving the way for a stronger and equitable future.
So, why should YOU care?
If you are a woman, or if you are aiming for a career in health (or both!) then the answer is simple: YOU are the future of health. You can help create unbiased and efficient health systems that will better serve the community. For everyone else: as a member of this community that will have access to health services, your voice matters and can also make a difference.
Here at Empowering Women In Health, our mission is to Rewrite the Canadian Health Narrative. Two of our main goals are 1) to inspire young women starting their professional careers in health to aim for leadership and equitable representation, and to do this by 2) connecting community leaders with students to provide them with the tools that will arim them for success and leadership in their careers.
To concretize these goals, for 2022 we have created Building Power: a set of 3 distinct workshops hosted by healthcare leaders from diverse fields such as healthcare tech, healthcare law, and practicing physicians to help you in your interviews, mitigate issues of imposter syndrome, teach you how to build your portfolio and much more. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Moreover, for women’s international day, we are launching something extra special: over the past year, we have come to realize that one of the key barriers to our mission is the lack of awareness on the topic, and lack of data on what current health students are experiencing that could act as barriers to their accessing leadership training or positions. For that reason, we are launching a wide-reach survey that will allow us to both spread awareness and collect that precious information. Once we know there the gaps are, EWIH will be in a better position to address them by building appropriate initiatives to equip this generation for leadership.
For more details, visit our website at empoweringwomeninhealth.org and follow us on social media:
LinkedIn: Empowering Women In Health
YouTube: Empowering Women in Health
Blog Post By: Anshikha Kumar and Tatiana Espinosa-Merlano