How Can We Increase Female Representation in Digital Health?
Women in the United States have immense influence within the healthcare system. The majority of healthcare spending is controlled by women, and they also make up over half of the workforce in healthcare. Despite this influence, women still lag behind in representation within healthcare leadership, especially in technology startups. However, despite all of the barriers, things seem to be looking up for women in healthcare technology and increased recognition within the Venture Capital world.
Women in the United States have immense influence within the healthcare system. The majority of healthcare spending is controlled by women, and they also make up over half of the workforce in healthcare. Despite this influence, women still lag behind in representation within healthcare leadership, especially in technology startups. Below are a few statistics that demonstrate this discrepancy between women's overall presence in the healthcare system and their lack of representation in key leadership positions:
Women as Healthcare Consumers
Women tend to drive family healthcare decisions and spending patterns; 80% of all household healthcare spending is done by women.
Working-age females spend 29% more per capita on healthcare compared to males in the same age group.
Women in the Healthcare Workforce
80% of healthcare professionals are women. Women are especially overrepresented in fields like nursing and Human Resources.
Women are still significantly underrepresented within healthcare leadership. Only an estimated 20% of healthcare executives are women.
Women in Healthcare Startups
All of these statistics should be alarming. Despite the major role that women play in healthcare as both consumers and professionals, women are still significantly underrepresented in leadership positions. This phenomenon is especially present when looking specifically at healthcare technology startups.
Gender equity is critical in Digital Health startups. Experts agree that teams building technology are most effective when they reflect their intended user base. This relates to a concept called "Human-Centered Design," which dictates that the process for building new technology should be based on "…a deep empathy with the people you're designing for." Without adequate female representation within healthcare technology companies, it will be difficult to build effective technology solutions for women in the healthcare system.
There are systemic reasons why women have historically been underrepresented in Digital Health startups. One major factor has been a lack of female representation in Venture Capital. Many female entrepreneurs have anecdotally expressed how male Venture Capitalists are less likely to understand and invest in products related to women's health.
Women in startups also face the standard challenges found in all industries: lack of female mentorship, lack of flexibility and family-friendly benefits, and a lack of visibility of female leaders. Sadly, over 50% of women feel that their male peers have more role models than they do. Supporting female entrepreneurs in Digital Health must be accompanied by support for professional women across industries.
Despite all of the barriers, things seem to be looking up for women in healthcare technology. A new term has recently been created for health technology solutions focused on women: Femtech. This industry seems to be piquing the interest of investors. According to a report by Frost & Sullivan, Femtech has a market potential of $50 billion by 2025. Some of the most popular categories of Femtech include reproductive health, pregnancy and nursing care, and general health and wellness apps for women.
Another bright spot has been the increased recognition within the Venture Capital world of a need for increased diversity. Although numbers remain low, a December 2017 report by Preqin shows that female representation in Venture Capital has increased steadily over the last several years. This, combined with an increased interest for Femtech solutions, may ultimately create more effective healthcare technology solutions for women.