Contribution of Women in Healthcare

Kushboo Goel | March 10, 2021

Women in Healthcare

The role of women and gender parity is at the center of global debate across most industries. Women leaders have impacted several industries positively, be it Indira Nooyi at PepsiCo, Mary Barra at General Motors, Angela Hwang at Pfizer, Julie Sweet at Accenture and most recently Whitney Wolfe Head at Bumble. They are always recognized not just for their hard work and accomplishments, but also lauded to be the first women within their industries to have reached this goal. This is perhaps because there have only been 60 Women to become CEOs in Fortune 500 companies over the last 50 years. Despite the hardships and usually fragmented career paths (mostly owing to prioritizing growing a family in the midst of their career), women have made a remarkable impact, and this also stands true for the Healthcare industry.

According to the World Health Organization, 70% of the global healthcare workforce are women. Women are not only the largest consumers of healthcare (according to one report women make 80% of buying and usage decisions in healthcare) but also the largest providers in roles as nurses, midwives, community health workers, doctors, and sometimes leaders. Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to be granted an MD degree in 1849 in the US. She was turned away by more than 10 medical schools and was advised by her professor to disguise as a man to gain admission. Take the case of Anandibai Joshi who became the first Indian woman to graduate with an MD in western medicine in the year 1886. It is safe to say, healthcare has come a long way. Data analysed from 32 countries (Lancet) shows that women contribute around US$3 trillion to healthcare annually.

At the center of Apollo Hospitals are four women leaders, who also happen to be sisters. Apollo Hospitals was started as a 150-bed hospital in Chennai in 1983 by Dr. Pratap Reddy and is now perhaps one of the largest healthcare providers in Asia with over 8,000 beds across 46 hospitals in India and abroad. According to Dr. Reddy, “Women have capability and skill, but they don’t get the opportunity to demonstrate it, which my daughters had and they have done extremely well”. Apollo takes pride in over 50% of its employees being women, with 15% in senior management positions. Dr. Reddy’s youngest daughter, Sangeetha Reddy was famously quoted saying “I have heard people say ‘Poor Doctor Reddy! He has four daughters. Our task was to make people say ‘Lucky Doctor Reddy! He has four daughters”. It is safe to say that Dr. Reddy’s four daughters have proved people wrong. They not only run and grow Apollo Hospitals but work closely with the government and industry bodies to shape policies and related decisions on key healthcare issues. Sangeetha Reddy, a firm believer in leveraging technology has focused on setting benchmarks in futuristic health care projects enabling IoT, AI, Data Analytics, drone tech, and Blockchain. It is under her leadership that Apollo Hospitals has received three consecutive HiMSS-Elsevier ICT achievement awards.

While healthcare has the largest representation of women in its workforce, this representation is limited when it comes to leadership positions. In other words, Healthcare unlike other industries does not have a ‘women in healthcare’ problem but a “women in healthcare leadership” problem. I believe it is important that organizations small and big, build a women-centric ecosystem that empowers women to take on leadership roles through gender progressive policies, skill development, mentorship and leadership programs and offering flexible work options. Once these structural and institutional biases are removed, then it is up to us women to overcome the mindset bias and do our part and aim high. We must intentionally seek leadership positions more than we naturally do. We must challenge the status quo like many others before us have and shatter the glass ceiling.


About the Author –

Kushboo Goel

Kushboo brings with her 9+ years of experience in Management Consulting and IT Consulting in Healthcare and Financial Services. Within healthcare, she has worked at the University of Chicago Hospitals, Johns Hopkins, Advisory Board Company, and Apollo Hospitals. She is especially experienced in managing and supporting large transformation programs. She has worked on several process optimization and cost optimization projects contributing to FTE and dollar savings for her clients..

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