Despite women making progress across the professional landscape over the past few decades, healthcare is one industry where we’re still seeing fewer women in positions of leadership. But Colleen Cuffaro, a healthcare venture capitalist at VC firm, Canaan, is optimistic that this imbalance is changing in a positive way.

Historical bias

“At the moment, we have a much larger pool of men with leadership experience because of that historical bias. There are plenty of qualified women who could be put into executive roles or board positions, but if you are only looking for former CEOs, you are still more likely to find a man.”

“I would not be in the position I am in today without the support of incredible mentors. I think it’s very important to learn from those who have gone before you and have achieved success.”

Cuffaro got her start working as an analytical chemist at a small pharmaceutical manufacturing firm. After that, she attended Yale, earning her Ph.D. in the department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology. Then her career took an interesting turn when she met one of the general partners at Canaan Partners.

“Prior to that, I hadn’t considered venture capital because, frankly, I didn’t know much about it. When I learned about the work Canaan was doing, I was immediately interested and was very fortunate to join the firm four years ago.”  

She believes that women in healthcare should have experience and knowledge of business and finance, even if it’s not formal.

Gaining experience

“Don’t be afraid to pursue science or medicine even if your ultimate goal is a business role. I never had any formal business or finance training. It was something that I picked up on the job.”

Cuffaro encourages women in healthcare to network and find great mentors.

“I would not be in the position I am in today without the support of incredible mentors. I think it’s very important to learn from those who have gone before you and have achieved success.”