Since the launch of the #MeToo movement, there’s been a surge in the conversations and awareness around the challenges women face in the home, work, politics and everyday life. Indeed, there’s a recognition that we’re still a long way off from gender equity.
But has increased awareness moved the needle on women’s issues?
“It’s less clear whether the challenges that women face have changed in any appreciable way because of this recent attention,” said Health2047 Managing Director Lúcia Soares. “I think women and men are having more candid conversations about the challenges facing women, but substantive progress only occurs when words turn into action.”
Drawing from experience
That said, women are still facing unconscious bias, which is “the single, biggest challenge facing women today.” While Soares said she’s never worked with someone consciously denying women advancement opportunities, unconscious biases are “alive and well in virtually every industry.”
In her own life, shortly after she had her second child, Soares was offered an advancement opportunity that would require frequent travel. She accepted the position after a great deal of consideration and ensuring her daughters would have appropriate care.
But a few years later, a manager told Soares that while she was being considered for this new role, “many well-intended managers asked whether it was prudent to require me to travel so frequently with a baby at home.”
“The group manager challenged the unconscious bias in the room by recognizing that this decision was one that only I could make,” she noted.
“Fueled by the momentum of the status quo and the assumption most women are either content doing what they are doing or will follow a career path different from their male counterparts, I have continued to see a great deal of unconscious bias in the C-suites and board rooms at most companies -- and in the halls of Congress and the Senate,” Soares said.
But what inspires Soares are stories of women politicians nursing their babies at work, which fuels a change in mindset around the bandwidth of a new mother. Not only that, but while C-suite and board members have been predominantly male, women have been rising in ranks and filling these prominent positions.
“But there’s a great deal more progress to be made, and that starts with how we educate our girls – some of the challenges are baked into the system as far back as elementary school,” Soares said. “Both industry and government would benefit greatly from a strong representation of confident female voices.
“Voices that can only be heard if we are willing to challenge the unwritten rules around who we consider for promotions and how we work together,” she continued. “When we invite more creativity and flexibility into our work arrangements – while still holding ourselves to the highest standard of work quality – I believe a stronger society will exist for both working mothers and fathers.”
The role of women in health IT
Leading women in healthcare should not just be a suggestion, but a necessity. Given the needs of women’s health -- including fair and adequate representation -- women need to be part of both research and development, Soares explained.
For example, there’s been an increased movement in companies developing digital fertility solutions and pregnancy wearables.
“These products are finally collecting data on the female health experience – a treasure trove for future generations of researchers,” said Soares.
But women also need a seat at the table, brainstorming “how to address talent diversity challenges and design business objectives that drive inclusion and stretch leadership to think differently about talent potential,” she explained. “Leadership programs that engage men and women have the potential to transform work environments into more productive and meaningful collaborative experiences.”
Women need to create a ‘board of directors’ for themselves, made up of about five or six people that can provide advice on both professional and personal goals. To Soares, this is crucial in building a trusted support network that can define challenges, and how to productively handle it.
“Women should actively seek out opportunities to help other women grow and get out of their comfort zones professionally,” Soares said. “I actively mentor a minimum of seven mentees (women and men). As much as I mentor to help the mentee, I also find that giving back helps me grow.”
“Every single one of us should work to create opportunities for dialogue about career aspirations and personal growth,” she added. “Dialogue is the avenue to a new journey, a new destination.”