Health tech is set to boom in the coming years. But there’s still “persistent gender inequality” across the space. How can we better empower women in health technology?
No matter which way you spin it – women are still a minority in tech. The rise of femtech has closed the gender gap to a point (notably in health tech), but the problem is still deeply rooted in the industry, and companies have a long way to go to achieve true diversity in their workforce.
The numbers don’t just show less women in tech than men. Data suggests that women are also underpaid, and underrepresented and even discriminated against in sectors which are historically dominated by men.
In 2021, Tech Nation reported that only 19% of the tech workforce are women. This figure is even less for black and Hispanic women at just 3% and Asian women just 5%.
Imposter syndrome in tech
Further deepening the issue, women who already work in the tech industry can report to suffer from “imposter syndrome”, and worry how they are perceived by their male counterparts.
Valentina Milanova, founder of Daye, manages medical device engineers, and often has to present in front of academics and clinicians.
She said: “I often struggle with finding the confidence I need to do my job with ease – I frequently worry about how I will be perceived and struggle with imposter syndrome.
“I grew up with the myth of “the Math brain” and spent a large part of my young adulthood thinking my brain was only good for languages and literature. I also grew up in a particularly patriarchal family. But my experience is no exception.”
She added: “There are many reasons for a gender imbalance in STEM. A lot of them have to do with the ways in which we routinely fail women and assigned female at birth (AFAB) individuals in higher education and at work.
Lack of visible and celebrated role models
“Male-dominated work cultures, the lack of visible and celebrated role models, and the proliferation of gender stereotypes are just some of the reasons why women and girls feel they don’t belong in STEM.
“This is particularly worrisome when it comes to the gender pay gap, as STEM fields such as engineering, biomedicine, and computer sciences account for some of the best-paid livelihoods.
“As a result, the gender imbalance in STEM directly affects the economic security of women and AFAB individuals.”
“Heavily skewed” towards men
Dr Laoise Hook, health sciences director at FITFILE said: “The gender balance in STEM education and careers has always, unfortunately, been heavily skewed towards men.
“Although recent progress has been encouraging, accelerated by the hard work of many pioneering women and female educators, we remain a long way from equal gender representation.”
Kay Hussain is the CEO of WISE – a company dedicated to improving gender diversity in STEM. She told Health Tech World that, although tech is the fastest growing STEM sector, the number of women as a percentage of the total tech workforce is growing much less quickly than that of other sectors.
She added: “Between 2009 and 2022 women IT professionals grew from 15.7% to 19.9% of the total IT workforce compared with the percentage of women in engineering which grew from 5.8% to 12.5% during the same time period.
“A diverse workforce is essential to making the products and services created by the technology industry accessible to, and suitable for, a broad audience.
“Similarly, the best ideas come from diverse teams, and as the WISE business case shows productivity and other financials are also significantly improved when a workforce is diverse.”
WISE, who assists the likes of Network Rail, Pfizer and Dyson to improve gender their diversity, will be hosting its annual conference in March 2023, exploring the key issues faced by STEM employers and employees.
Kay continued: “We would urge all STEM employers looking to improve workplace diversity and inclusion to attend the WISE 2023 Conference.
“In addition to hearing invaluable insights from expert practitioners, ticket holders will be encouraged to participate in interactive workshops and breakout sessions based around key topical themes.
‘They will also have ample opportunity to network with other STEM employers and employees. I can’t overstate the importance of becoming a part of our growing community of organisations and partners committed to achieving parity for women in STEM.”
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