I first noticed it two years ago at a MaRS-hosted healthcare conference: there were 23 females in the room, less than 20% of the attendees.

It’s a fact that is reinforced throughout our event demographics and client base. For tech startups in general, the ratio of female to male founders is already distressingly low; in the healthcare sector (startups and industry), the ratio skews to 4:100. In a sector where women comprise 73% of managers, only 4% are healthcare CEOs.

Closer to home, only 5% of the 200+ life sciences and healthcare companies are led by females.

Digital health accelerator Rock Health ran a women-in-healthcare awareness series last week called “XX in Health,” which got me thinking about the industry, the circumstances that lead to this deficit and what we can do in our own little worlds to change the outlook. Check out their articles and research for some interesting insights.

Their report largely suggests that women need female mentors (a suggestion corroborated by many other studies about women in leadership roles). I’m early in my career and am fortunate to work at MaRS, where amazing female mentors are found from the CEO on down, but I’ve noted that many of my non-MaRS peers and some of the entrepreneurs that I deal with seem to lack female mentors.

The healthcare industry is one where most major wellness and purchasing decisions are made by women, but the corporate decisions about what is being provided and how service is delivered are made by men. We’re aware of it . . . so now what?

There are clearly a number of factors that go into an individual’s choice to move into a senior role, and I’m not attempting to belittle or condense major life decisions into a one-sentence “solution.” However, one barrier that I (anecdotally) find prevalent among my like-aged friends is a lack of confidence and knowledge when it comes to  “how” to reach the next step (and no, we’re not yet reaching CEO level, but it all starts somewhere!).

My own personal best bet is to take motivation and inspiration to excel from wherever possible: six-year-old kids standing up for themselves, male colleagues fighting for a better raise, Olympians reaching their bests, my dad’s “COMPETE” license plate.

Confidence can come from anywhere, and in working toward C-suite-style positions, confidence in yourself and your abilities is a good first step (and a gender-agnostic one, too!).

Caitlin McCabe

Caitlin helps make sure our clients in the life sciences and health care industry have a great experience with our life sciences practice at MaRS. See more…