Is health technology a man’s world?
By Louise Sinclair, HealthTech Women.
Yes, unfortunately, at the moment, it is. There’s a huge gap in the NHS between men and women’s roles. Even though two thirds of the NHS workforce are women, less than half of those women are in senior roles and only 7% of start-ups in the healthcare sector are run by women. You only have to Google ‘tech entrepreneurs’ and look at the images and you’ll see, they’re all men. Likewise, if you Google ‘nurses’, the images are all of women.
As part of my role running the UK network for HealthTech Women, I’m working hard to bring women with technical skills to the forefront of the health sector and bring recognition to the fact that women can add a lot of depth to the conversation.
HealthTech Women was established in San Francisco in 2013. In December 2015, co-founder Maxine Mackintosh and I introduced it in the UK. Maxine is a Neuro-Informatics PhD student at University College London and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. At just 23 years old, she’s going places. I got introduced to Maxine at a health and care IT conference by Beverley Bryant (Director of Digital Transformation at NHS Digital) who, as one of the few female leaders in the world of HealthTech, was very excited about a network in the UK which offers an open, safe and welcoming space where women in this sector can engage and have a platform where, irrespective of their role or position, they can be heard.
I’ve been working in IT communications for 25 years but over the last 15 years my focus has turned to technology in health and care. As well as my work with HealthTech Women, I now run a small but specialised communications business, Redder Associates, based in Harrogate.
I got involved in HealthTech Women partly because of Maxine and Beverley and their passion and enthusiasm and because I genuinely love this industry and the people in it. In these last 15 years, I have come to understand how much digital health and care has to offer; a lot of clever people, a lot of caring and compassionate people and I firmly believe that what we’re doing with technology, to support the clinicians and patients, is really making a genuine difference and will create efficiencies and benefits for all.
Since we launched HealthTech Women in the UK, our membership has grown from zero to over seven thousand. It’s free to join and we will be starting a mentor programme in 2017. We’ve already engaged a number of mentors who are really keen to work with us.
We’re consulting with our network at the moment to find out what skills they really want. It can be something as simple as encouragement. At a recent launch event in Leeds, a young woman in the audience stood up and said “I’m working in the health and care sector and I’m surrounded by men. I was thinking about going into something else but now I’ve heard from so many healthtech women with such enthusiasm, I’m going to stay”. It’s feedback like this that makes the network real and so worthwhile.
About two years ago, I was at a big national conference on health and care, and at the end there was a panel session with middle-aged, white men in grey suits, and one of them stood up and said “We’d really like to see a little more diversity on this panel in the next year or so.” So, HealthTech Women now provide speakers for these national events and of our seven thousand members, we have around three hundred women willing and able to speak at such events. We always get men attending to our events, which is great to see as we welcome everyone.
I have been working closely with DHEZ Ltd since the Digital Exchange opened in April 2016 and have hosted and helped run several sessions in the newly refurbished building. It’s great to be working with a likeminded organisation that is trying to improve the lives of everyday people by empowering businesses to develop digital health innovations.