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Women in Healthcare

The State of Gender Parity in Healthcare

Laurie Cooke, PGDip, RPh, CAE

President and CEO, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association

The groundswell of energy around gender parity — in healthcare and in the larger world — is palpable. As Melinda Gates noted recently when announcing her $1 billion donation to support gender equality, it feels as though a window of opportunity has opened.


The 2019 Women in the Workplace study from and McKinsey & Company reflects this energy. The study, now in its fifth year, shows that more companies than ever are embracing best practices, deepening commitments, and holding senior leaders accountable for progress. And the numbers are moving, with women’s C-suite representation rising from 17 percent in 2015 to 21 percent in 2019.  

But the numbers also reveal that the goal of parity is still far from certain — and that our work toward this goal requires continued diligence.

Areas for improvement

  • The “broken rung” at the start of the corporate management ladder: The McKinsey report shows that just 72 women for every 100 men are hired and promoted to the first level of management. This threatens parity at each subsequent level, and must be fixed to create a strong female talent pipeline for the future. In healthcare specifically, we must also work on movement at the top, which continues to be a sticking point.
  • Progress for all women: The fact is that progress has not been equally shared. For example, while 1 in 5 C-suite leaders is female, just 1 in 25 is a woman of color. We must delve deeper into how to effectively broaden inclusivity.
  • Emerging concerns: Progress isn’t always linear. For example, Medical Marketing & Media magazine’s 2019 Career & Salary Survey showed that women in biopharmaceutical marketing earn 63 percent less on average than their male counterparts. This gap has more than tripled since 2017. We must keep our finger on the pulse of emerging issues, and address them head-on as they arise.

Maintaining the momentum

At the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, we’ve found that there is no substitute for the power of joining forces. Together, companies can more quickly identify and understand emerging trends, share best practices for addressing issues, and hold each other accountable for real progress. Whether it’s developing parity-focused partnerships, supporting studies like Women in the Workplace, or joining consortiums like our Gender Parity Collaborative, we encourage companies to work together to capitalize on this window of opportunity — so we can finally achieve parity for all.

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