Today I had the opportunity to speak very briefly at a White House-sponsored roundtable called the “Impact of Gender/Sex on Innovation and Novel Technologies (iGIANT)” in Cambridge, MA. Other partners for this event were the American Medical Women’s Association, Boston Scientific, and Medstro. This is what I shared.
What I’ve found while working in the digital health space is that there is a significant lack of women in the healthcare investment industry. Though women make 80% of healthcare decisions in families, and despite women making up 78% of the healthcare workforce, we are sorely underrepresented among investment and corporate leadership. In the digital health space, only 6% of CEOs of startups are women. That, I believe, reflects the fact that only 6% of venture capitalists are women. While we don’t like to admit it, money is power. And if women don’t have access to the purse strings that fund innovations, then of course, innovations that concern women and that can impact women’s health are going to be underfunded and underrepresented.
What I’d like to see is more healthcare and academic institutions, in the public and private sectors, committing to what’s called “gender lens investing”, making it a criteria to invest with gender equity in mind. This may mean making an effort to engage with only those investment and venture capital firms that commit to diversity, have adequate female representation, and make a commitment to try to invest in projects that interest and can benefit women.
I believe that more diverse teams will translate to improved health innovations that can benefit more diverse groups of people. Diverse investors lead to diverse founders and companies; diverse companies lead to diverse innovations; diverse innovations are what serve diverse stakeholders. And that is what will ultimately lead to equity, not just in terms of gender equity, but also racial/ethnic equity.
This cultural change could be facilitated through a policy recommendation, perhaps through a white paper study or policy brief on the matter, and also by all of us here urging individuals and organizations at every level to invest their funds more conscientiously and in a mission-driven manner with gender equity in mind. Thank you.
- “The State of Women in Healthcare”, Rock Health, March 2015
- “Venture Capital’s Next Venture? Women”, Tech Crunch, June 2015
- “Investing for Positive Impact on Women”, Croatan Institute, Nov 2015