Report Highlights Huge Gender Disparity in Healthcare Leadership

Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Dave Chase, the CEO of, a patient portal & relationship management company that was a TechCrunch Disrupt finalist. Previously he was a management consultant for Accenture’s healthcare practice and founder of Microsoft’s Health business. You can follow him on Twitter@chasedave.

I can’t think of a product or service that both women and men purchase that is more heavily influenced by women than healthcare. Each family has what I call a Chief Health & Wellness Officer driving these critical decisions — the majority of the time that is the female head of household. It turns out there’s a similar dynamic on the organizational side of healthcare. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73% of medical and health service managers are women. RockHealth (the health startup incubator) released a report today on Women in Healthcare (disclosure: I was interviewed for this report).

Despite the preeminent role women play in healthcare, a recent study by RockHealth uncovered some stunning statistics about the paucity of women running startups (at least that are getting funded). Consider that while women  compose 73% of medical and health services managers, only 4% of healthcare CEOs were women. In the 2011 Venture Funded Digital Health database that RockHealth created, they looked at organizations who received over $2M in venture funding — none had a female CEO. The report also outlines other interesting statistics such as the percentage of TEDMED speakers who were female.

RockHealth surveyed 100 women about why women were underrepresented amongst the executive ranks. They explore the role factors such as the ability to connect with senior leadership. Here’s what one woman had to say…

“Gender roles continue to exist in the workplace, making this progression harder than originally imagined. For example, I work in a company that fosters women to rise, with full support from upper management. However, the same upper management is male dominated, making it difficult to form a strong connection.”

Sue Siegel, a partner with Mohr Davidow Ventures, points out a natural strength that women should be able to tap. “Data shows that women are at the center of healthcare decisions in the family unit and experience the full spectrum of healthcare delivery. As leaders in the healthcare system women bring firsthand views as customers. They can then help define and improve these experiences, making the healthcare system more user friendly, convenient, and efficient. As healthcare professionals, women bring empathy and increased communication skills. This is an industry where women can naturally lead.”

While it is true that there aren’t as many female executives and thus available female mentors, this need not be a barrier. We’ve seen a similar dynamic in competitive sports. The 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup team created a watershed moment when they won the World Cup. They did this despite the fact that there weren’t many female role models for them. Instead, many of their coaches and role models were their dads, brothers, uncles and neighbors. I point this out as the relatively small number of women executives need not be a barrier to seeking career guidance from seasoned veterans regardless of gender.

The full report is embedded below. I believe the smart healthtech company must recognize the criticality of women in the healthcare decision process and thus why it’s critical to have women in leadership positions. What do you think should or shouldn’t be done?