Globally, women make up 70% of the workforce in the health and social care sector. However, only 25% of women occupy leadership positions. In addition, the gender pay gap in the healthcare sector is 26%, higher than the average for other sectors (16%). It is estimated that almost US$160 trillion is lost globally due to gender differences in earnings between men and women.
According to an IDB study, women account for 60% of graduates from tertiary and university programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. In spite of that, they represent only 30% of graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). This reveals their low propensity to choose high-productivity careers and, consequently, better-paid sectors.
The same study pointed out that public visibility of female role models in leadership positions or in male-dominated careers and sectors helps to reduce gender stereotypes and encourages women’s inclination toward those careers or sectors.
Women Champions in Digital Health
If I tell you about a scientist without mentioning a name, do you picture the person as a man or as a woman? Let’s try. What does an expert in digital health look like in your mind? The “draw a scientist” experiment and other similar studies showed that many people drew a man instead of a woman as a scientist.
As a counterpoint to that experiment, in our Social Digital platform, we highlight the stories and achievements of thirty-eight women who have been selected to celebrate their leadership in digital health in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, we asked them about the main obstacles they find in their fields. The following are some of their answers.
- According to the champions, gender imbalance or male predominance in the field is the hardest part of being a woman working in digital health. Additionally, old stigmas and prejudices which still weigh over women hinder their work in the field. Maintaining a work-life balance has been another challenge for women in other sectors.
- More than half of the respondents emphasized the importance of increasing educational opportunities for women. In the same way, having inspiring figures and role models can help attract more women to the field of digital health. They also pointed out that it would be beneficial to enhance women’s work environments and create support networks.
- Some women mentioned that the most challenging part is to shatter the stigmas and prejudices that come from the past and which, unfortunately, still persist to some extent. They also mentioned that it is still difficult to overcome the barriers that usually place a man as a reference in technology.
- For other women, the most challenging thing is reconciling the multiple tasks that are still the responsibility of women in our society: taking care of children, the elderly, and the home; supporting children’s schooling and ensuring the family’s emotional stability. In addition, there are still important gaps in the development of co-responsibility in families, flexibility on the part of employers, and public policies.
- Another critical issue is that, as programs in digital health are represented mostly by men, women, and especially young women, are not taken with sufficient seriousness when addressing the issue of the potential of digital transformation in public health.
5 Tips to Reduce the Bias Against Women in Digital Technology
Jobs in digital technologies, and even more so in leadership positions, are mostly filled by men. This is closely linked to conservative educational processes which, even to this day, reproduce the division of “jobs for men” and “jobs for women”. Talking about inclusion and gender equality, especially in the business sectors of some countries, continues to be hardly accepted and even stigmatized.
But what can be done to change the bias against women in digital technology? Here are five tips in the words of the women champions:
- “The first step is training. We need to get more women involved with new technologies. As women, we need to be fearless and free ourselves from all prejudices.”
- “As women, we should make an intentional effort to make our peers feel welcome and included in the field. We need to celebrate women leaders in STEM, and fight against unconscious biases in language when hiring.”
- “Promoting digital transformation in education at all levels, creating inclusive digital skills, and stimulating training spaces for entrepreneurship and innovation for girls and young women.”
- “Working through networks and communities where women can exchange experiences, knowledge, and opportunities in the field creates sorority and collective empathy, thus enabling that more women join the field.”
- “Creating inclusive support networks in the industry through programs to motivate women to join. This field needs more women, and the type of profession cannot be a limit: managers, directors, finance specialists, lawyers, coders (key!), and accountants.
It is within us to know more about how to reduce biases against women in any field of development and to give visibility to women who have been able to bring down the barriers they faced and become an inspiration for others.