Diversity by Doing Aims to Close the Gap on Gender Disparities in Healthtech

Diversity and inclusion have always been a goal of the Fogarty Institute, and over the past year we have been collaborating with the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign and Maria Sainz, president and CEO of AEGEA Medical, on ways to achieve a more diverse representation within the healthtech field.

The team developed the Diversity by Doing (DxD) Healthtech initiative to identify and raise awareness of inequity, and then help individuals take action to improve diversity in their work environments. While it initially focused on gender issues due to its ability to impact half the population, DxD is now expanding the scope to race and other dimensions of diversity.

Virtual event highlights current reality

The first step was launching a survey to delve deeper into the status of gender diversity in healthtech. More than 400 people responded, and the results were recently presented as part of an interactive and engaging virtual event designed to honor MedTech Women’s 10th anniversary.

The event was kicked off by Nicole Osmer, founder and CEO of Health and Commerce and a founding member of Medtech Women, and moderated by Tracy MacNeal, president and CEO of Fogarty company Materna Medical, an angel investor and chair of AdvaMed Women’s Executive Network. Panelists included the three founders of DxD: Maria Sainz; Mike Regan, CIO of the Fogarty Institute; and Paul Yock, director of Stanford Biodesign.

“This industry-wide initiative is designed to raise awareness of inequity, help individuals take action, to create a more just and inclusive environment and to share the results over time,” Tracy explained, adding that the proceeds of the webinar were being donated to MedTechColor, which advances representation for people of color in the medical device industry.

Key survey takeaways: A broad difference in perception

“We wanted to use the survey to drive change in a way that was fact-based, rather than opinion,” Maria said. Here are takeaways in three key areas:

Advancement

The findings shed light beyond the raw numbers into the perceptions that may be hindering the industry. In short, despite the fact that women are significantly underrepresented in senior leadership roles, men were more likely to believe that executives are focused on recruiting women, and that the promotion criteria for men and women are equitable. Women, however perceive a less meritocratic and inclusive workplace and believe their ability to rise is hampered primarily by exclusion from influential communication networks and stereotyping or bias, not work/family balance as men believe.

This perception of significant inequalities can lead to even more instability. More than one-third of female respondents are considering leaving their jobs, the top two reasons being management dissatisfaction and a desire for greater advancement opportunities.

“There are perception issues here that need to be addressed,” said Maria. “And it starts with awareness and education, which is why DxD is committed to removing the barriers to advance more women into senior leadership roles.”

Mentoring 

Diving deeper into job satisfaction, the DxD team was intrigued to learn that mentoring played a significant role in how professionals perceived their workplace.

Both men and women who had a mentor scored significantly higher on all job satisfaction indicators – such as feeling their professional contributions were valued, feeling like part of the team and believing their managers advocate on their behalf – as compared to those who didn’t have one.

However, men who had mentors still rated higher in most of the job satisfaction categories than their women counterparts, showing once again that men generally feel better about their daily experience at work and more affirmed as part of the team for their contributions.

Fundraising

Here, too, there were disparities related to how women believe they are treated by investors, with only 10% of men, compared with nearly half of the women, perceiving that male and female members of the pitch team were treated differently.

“These results really drove home that there is a strong disconnect that we need to work together to actively address and resolve,” said Mike. “Despite the fact that our industry is focused on helping people, it’s clear we are affected by the issues that face other fields.”

The sentiment was echoed by Paul, who was discouraged to note that many of the disparities in perception are also prevalent among the younger generations. However, the goal and path is clear. “While there is a lot of work to be done, I feel optimistic that we have an opportunity to make an impact via our training programs and initiatives like DxD. We believe we are a group that can make changes and look forward to taking action, based on this new understanding.”

Continuing the conversation

You can read more about the survey, “Analysis of Gender Perceptions in Health Technology: A Call to Action,” in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.

MedtechWomen will be hosting two additional virtual events in 2020. The next event will be in partnership with MedTech Color; check their website for additional details and dates. DxD is currently analyzing and will soon be releasing its second survey on whether COVID-19 has had different impact by gender in the healthtech workforce.

Additional resources and articles on mentoring and diversity can be found on the DxD website.

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