Moving the Industry Forward

"It’s hard to say that anyone really has equity if not everyone has equity"

The healthcare industry has been through a lot over the past 14 months. Clinicians and emergency department workers began acting as a bulwark, triaging the first wave of COVID-19 cases. Then we found that there were desperately low supplies of facemasks – surgical, N95, KN95, etc. Manufacturing partners ramped up production of much-needed supplies to build fortification against the oncoming threat to public health.

And then came the clinical trials for therapies to reduce the morbidity and mortality owing to COVID-19. Some of these became notorious for their ineffectiveness and publicity (such as hydroxychloroquine), and others showed some promise, but not nearly to the degree which was hoped. Vaccine trials began.

Industry Risk

At the same time, and because of the surge in demand on healthcare resources, clinical trials for almost all other diseases and disorders (including oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, and psychiatry) ground to a halt. Many trials paused, and some never resumed.

Because the pharmaceutical and medical device industries are in many ways a supplier to – and reflection of – the hospitals and clinics which they serve, these incredibly volatile business troughs led many organizations to get very risk-averse on very short time horizons. This manifested as Quarter 2 of 2020 being one of contraction – of spend, of exposure to market risk. But companies have adapted, clinical trials have resumed, and clinicians who had been ceasing or delaying face-to-face patient evaluations and treatments are now filling up their calendars with backlogged appointments.

Partners in Equity

During this time, we have continued to help the industry move forward by providing clients with the expertise to execute their programs and projects. When a need arises, we provide opportunities across pharma, medical devices, diagnostics, and other healthcare-related segments.

At the same time, we also want to make sure that we’re helping the healthcare industry in support of what’s important in social matters. Making sure that we actively support equity is important in our role as industry leaders. In doing the right things, we can also help set the example for others.

We recently supported the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering’s  Women in Pharma initiative, which happily coincides with International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. ISPE runs some of the largest in-person and virtual events in the industry.

 

IPSE Women in Pharma Logo

 

One of ISPE’s flagship groups, Women in Pharma, is tasked with giving “women in the pharmaceutical industry a forum for connecting and collaborating on technical and career advancement topics… [Their] inclusive community leverages a network of mentors, role models, and resources across all levels to foster balanced professional success.”

I recently co-moderated a panel group at Women in Pharma’s latest virtual event with my friend and colleague Amita Goel, CEO of Celltheon. There were an incredible number of participants, and they ranged from early-career through to very late-stage career. The amount of engagement and interest in helping each other to succeed was evident throughout. I wanted to share some of the common themes that we discussed to give you some insight into the event:

  • How to handle international companies where there are always meetings in different time zones
  • Advice for taking entrepreneurial opportunities within organizations and international markets
  • Dos and Don’ts for emerging leaders
  • Remaining positive when things aren’t working
  • How to support and encourage more women to be entrepreneurs

Room for Improvement

Marianne Schnall recently published Forbes’ list of top elements for female leaders, and in the #1 spot on the list was ‘Advance Gender Equity and Women’s Leadership.’ What we do know to be true is that diversity, inclusion, and equity issues don’t solve themselves. Indeed, women are occupying more leadership roles in companies, but that this number is still incredibly low. In fact, in 2020, news outlets published dozens of stories highlighting that the number of women CEOs had reached ‘a record high.’ This is true in comparison to previous years, where last year women held the position of CEO in 37 of the Fortune 500 companies. But the full story is better described over a short time history – Here’s what the growth and current status has looked like since this number was two 20 years ago:

Graph showing the increase in Women CEOs in Fortune's 500 companies
From two to 37 with a long way to go.

This means that 463 of the Fortune 500 companies were not run by women. So while the headlines were indeed good news compared to the recent past, it’s still only 7%.

Diversity and inclusion should be the norm, not the exception. Companies with a diverse workforce are proven to perform 35% better and are 87% better at decision making. We can all do a better job at our work when we can bring our ‘full’ selves to work. We each have hopes and dreams, aspirations, anxieties, and idiosyncrasies. But it is these differences that make us unique and interesting. When this is valued at work, organizations will be able to acknowledge different perspectives and make decisions that more accurately reflect the world in which we exist.

In the tech space currently (and where the tech space is intersecting with wearables and what is called ‘clinical decision support’), there is a lot of worry and hand-wringing about artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning (AI/ML/DL) taking away jobs of the future, changing how work is done, and making healthcare less personal and less like “care.”

These meaningful struggles don’t take place just in the divide between machines and humans as we really don’t have everything sorted out on the ‘human’ side of the equation. We don’t have to passively wait for the future to take us over, we can choose to support decisions and activities that build the inroads for the type of future within which we want to be. And it’s hard to say that anyone really has equity if not everyone has equity.