Amplifying Our Voices

Posted by Darlene Dobry from Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide — North America on October 17, 2017

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in an MM&M Hall of Femme event which included a panel discussion focused on the important topic of gender diversity and inclusion, and highlighted the need for female leaders to “amplify each other’s voices.”  As I actively engaged in the dialogue, it struck me quite clearly what a vital, simple, and yet still layered and complex concept that is. With as far as women have come in the workplace—and in healthcare in particular—there are still quite a few challenges that can stifle the invaluable ideas and solutions that women bring to the table—and our clients and agencies could be missing a tremendous opportunity.

There is no better illustration for why it’s vital for women to “amplify each other’s voices” than in the evident lack of female representation in leadership positions.  According to the Center for American Progress in their Women’s Leadership Gap analysis, while women now make up 88% of the healthcare workforce, only 14.6% are executive officers, 8% are considered “top earners,” just 4% are Fortune 500 CEOs, and we hold only 16.9% of board seats. For women of color, it’s an even wider gap.  In the end, the fact that we are underrepresented in leadership forces us to individually and collectively raise our voices to ensure we are heard. We must visibly champion and show support for each other’s ideas, and ultimately help to build on great thinking and advance the ideas of other women who may not have the kind of forum to do so for themselves.

"It is incumbent on each of us to help amplify and fight for good ideas, and shine the light on the women who bring them forward."

Ensuring that the powerful and unique perspective women bring to the table is present in every important discussion isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes we aren’t even included in key meetings or decisions, so the first challenge is to ensure we have a seat at the table.  And then once there, to find and express our voice.  It’s also important that we not unwittingly undermine and second guess ourselves once there. Studies have shown that often female professionals allow a lack of confidence to hold them back. We can be too concerned with being polite, or worry that by speaking passionately we might come off as bossy or too emotional. We can be guilty of waiting to be asked for our opinion or waiting for our male counterparts to finish speaking before adding our own thoughts, even if we are the more qualified or informed on the topic at hand.  It’s incumbent upon all female professionals to speak up—and to ensure our ideas get equal representation and consideration.

And here’s why:

 

1. Women make up the majority of the healthcare workforce, despite the gender gap in leadership. 

 

2. Women are uniquely positioned to leverage traits such as empathy, compassion, transparency, communication and the ability to foster teamwork to lead organizations into the next phase of contemporary healthcare delivery.  These are all essential traits the most highly qualified leaders must possess.

 

3. Stereotype or not, women are typically more natural caretakers, the nurturers, the Chief Health & Wellness Officers of the household. We contribute $3 trillion to healthcare annually (Lancet Commission on Women and Health) and most often drive healthcare decisions in our family.  Our perspective and insights to solving healthcare challenges can inform our work, improve the customer experience and help form powerful connections to the female market.

Ours is an important voice and there are ways to effectively be a part of the dialogue.  Women need to support each other in meetings, and we need to connect and leverage greater support through our networks—be they industry networks created to help empower women, or women’s professional leadership groups within our organization.  We need to mentor each other and lift one another up so each one of us is able to speak confidently in the board room.  We must prepare for these discussions with validated data and insights to support our recommendations.  And it’s incumbent on each of us to help amplify and fight for good ideas, and shine the light on the women who bring them forward because ours is an industry that can and will continue to benefit greatly through our perspective and voice. 

 

Background photo courtsey of MM&M.