It’s not a secret that digital health is dominated by men. Why is it like that?
We notice the same patterns in this relatively new field as we see in the industry overall: when it comes to entry level, students, graduates, we have a vast force of top female talents. However, when you see those in the public eye who founded risky start-ups, got funding, the majority will be male. It is still society’s bias: risk taking in men is accepted and celebrated, the same behaviour in women is deemed inappropriate. There is more incentive and support for men. And they in turn don’t take an initial failure as personal, which women often do.
How do you want to encourage more women to engage in the technological transformation of healthcare?
First – highlight the untapped potential: make the bias visible, show ways to overcome it, publicly and widely communicate the success of female role models. Secondly, lower the risk to take initiative by providing support: mentoring, connections to investors, influential people in the industry; upskilling via education. Incentivise those men who are active sponsors and supporters of female talent where they see it. Just as they’d do with younger men.
On reflection, I see quite some hype around technology for tech’s sake rather than ACTUALLY transforming healthcare outcomes. I like that women tend to look for sustainability and social impact in everything they do. That is where women need to support their peers to stay their ground and NOT emulate the (some would say) male behaviour of getting excited about ‘shiny’ things with less thought on how it will actually help people, and society. It is a fine line.
Women tend to look for sustainability and social impact in everything they do
At HBA (Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association) new behaviours are formed. We empower networking and facilitate upskilling through educational events AND through volunteer roles within our organisation. We help our corporate partners unlock their female talent too, and actively promote role models. Then we have a mentoring programme. And in Europe, we have just launched our Entrepreneurship Affinity Group, specifically to serve the budding and existing entrepreneurs and ‘intrapreneurs’ among our membership.
Many start-ups are set up by women, but in the big tech companies women hold fewer top jobs. How can the gender balance positively influence the development of digital healthcare and the creation of new ideas for healthcare in the future? Where do you see the greatest chances?
Gender balance as well as diversity in experience, age and culture always generates better outcomes in solving problems in any group. The real benefit of such groups is that they stay clear of the group thinking or tunnel vision. Tech companies will experience that just as any other company. By highlighting the successes that big tech companies achieve through gender balance, we can hopefully accelerate its uptake and impact.
“Digital Transformation – What is in it for women”* – this is the topic of one of the meetings organized by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. So what’s in the digital transformation for women?
It is a mindset – not tech. It is about how we want to work, how we blend work and life and what time we have to make good decisions. If repetitive work and easy chores are provided by a device, it frees up time for the purposeful human interaction and care. Which some say is a female strength and a great need in our society. Women who take that advantage to the fullest and embrace those novelties to free up time will be able to strive the most in any work settings.
Then, working mobile, in virtual teams creates space to orchestrate family, volunteer work, job, continuous new adventures in a much less stressful way. It is liberating. For men AND women, which means equal chances.
It still happens quite often – at the digital health conferences, most of the speakers are men. I also organize many meetings and sometimes it’s just difficult to find female speakers to ensure gender balance on the stage. What to do to change it?
This is not so much special for the digital field as it is for all settings. I believe that men have the same stage fright, insecurities and doubts. But then they are raised to take that as part of the game and overcome, because they know it is necessary to influence. Now that is something that I want many women to adopt. We at HBA provide opportunities for that as well.
What stereotypes about women in the tech industry still exist and how do they preserve the existing status-quo?
The beauty really is that digital tech connects the creative, lateral thinking with the logic, linear thinking. Design thinking becomes a necessity – it is the new normal. This means that more versatile people in general are just better equipped. The stereotype is that Tech is ‘left brain’ and therefore male is just a lack of insight.
How to fight these prejudices?
Feature in public the people behind the success. Feature how digital solutions were developed, mostly as team efforts. Feature what skills it took to succeed. It is not that much of a miracle. Also actively support companies with proven ways to accelerate their female talent, and their female talent’s impact on their business. Support women to celebrate their own contributions and motivate them to continue to grow their input and success.
This is exactly what we aim to do within the HBA in order to achieve gender parity in the business of healthcare. Healthcare is a sector where the application of tech has huge societal potential. We believe that by actively pursuing our vision in a sector where gender parity has really obvious business benefits (seeing as women are the majority of the healthcare workforce and the main healthcare decisionmakers in society), we can drive female impact on technological transformation and set the standard for other sectors.
Jutta Kristen is the president of HBA Chapter Berlin, and Senior Leader in Life Sciences for more than 20 years. Her journey led her to work in Germany, the United States, Eastern Europe and the Netherlands with business spanning from Latin America to the Asia Pacific. With that exposure, she has made matters of inclusiveness and diversity, ownership and self-empowerment her life-time topics, along with the integration of ‘body and mind’ into health care. She strongly believes in the right, duty and power of every single person to take responsibility for their own health and the environment they want to live and work in. “Love it – change it – or leave it” has become her life motto. She loves debating – and creating ‘alternative futures’ a lot.