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In Healthcare, Not All Voices are Equal in Creating New Market Opportunities

Posted May 2, 2017

A few months back I found myself in a new professional environment, at RAPP New York. My arrival to this new agency and new city was timed closely with this year’s International Women’s Day, which resulted in some reflection. This new environment provided a different perspective for me, in that it reminded me of the critical role women leaders have, of course within any industry, but especially within the one that I’m particularly steeped in – the health industry.

Admittedly, my perspective is skewed. I come from a family of strong women, and have had the privilege of reporting to several women who are currently shaping the healthcare advertising industry. Finding myself in a new environment, I am reminded of the importance we must place in fostering an environment where it is essential for the makeup of a company’s leadership to be inclusive of women. This inclusion not only goes to the heart of a company’s culture, but also has a fundamental impact around how companies shape products and services to resonate with the end customer.

It is well understood that women play a much greater role in household decision-making regarding health. Women take up the mantel of the family doctor, caregiver and health advocate. Despite this primary role as the health decision maker, there is a deficit in the number of female CEOs and leaders in the healthcare industry. The implication is that the voice of the customer is missing at the most crucial organizational levels to steer strategic direction of companies throughout the industry.

Going beyond the critical need to promote greater diversity within organizations to ensure gender equality, for companies in the health and wellness sector there should be a more fundamental drive to ensure leadership is representational of the primary end customer: women. Through this representation, which elevates our voice, companies create a more empathic connection with the end customer and through their strategies shape solutions that resonate with the family health decision maker, creating new market value.

In building greater representation among women in leadership, we cannot overlook the importance of coming together as a community to amplify efforts. There are great organizations which underpin our community — for example, the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, She Runs It and the 3% Conference. We should also be advocating for organizations that embrace start-ups and STEM-focused initiatives, like Rock Health Women’s Summit, which nurture women entrepreneurs. The market disruptions that can come from these communities have the potential to open a whole new realm for healthcare.

Having benefited from the mentorship of strong women in leadership roles, this time to reflect yielded a new perspective around my own role at RAPP NY. Realizing it encompasses a new responsibility, that goes beyond fostering an environment of gender equity, but that is must also encompass being an advocate for the end customer.

I didn’t know, when I first joined RAPP, if I would be entering into an organization that embraced gender parity at the leadership level – or considered its impact on brand and vertical challenges. Now, a few months in, and continuing to reflect and hone in on my how my new responsibilities will manifest themselves in my day-to-day, I’ve come to know a strong female presence across the network. There’s always work to do, but I’m encouraged. The ability women bring to the leadership suite, truly having empathy for customer, other women who are the health decision makers, our voices help ensure products create greater value through relevance.

Tanya Shepley is the SVP Healthcare US at RAPP Worldwide.