Women leaders in 2023: Heralding a new era in the Indian healthcare ecosystem | The Financial Express

Women leaders in 2023: Heralding a new era in the Indian healthcare ecosystem

The benefits of women-led businesses are infinite yet we are lacking when it comes to gender-related gaps in filling senior roles.

Leprosy, nerve damage, deformity, leprosy treatment, health news,
With early diagnosis, prevention and treatment, leprosy can be eliminated.(File)

By Runam Mehta

Leaders have the power to transform – and a critical cog in this wheel of transformation is women. In a country like India with endemic structural inequalities and fragile support systems, women leaders can bring lasting changes.

Development by and for women is critical for India’s inclusive growth. Union Budget’s Nari Shakti initiatives equipping women with tools that help them steer change for a better tomorrow is a step in the right direction. Women at the front and center of decision-making can help improve policies and initiatives, especially in healthcare.

Equal participation of women  in the economy would  enable an estimated $160 trillion increase in global GDP-  The change is apparent and yet where are we lacking?

Encouraging more females to join the entrepreneurship bandwagon has been a common topic even before women-led startups became a thing. Some women  dreamt about the modern-age we are  in today and worked towards bringing this change. Their journey was very tough and their experiences have been  useful for others.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw founded India’s largest listed biopharmaceutical firm by revenue in 1978 called Biocon. She encountered many difficulties due to her inexperience, femininity, and unproven business concept. Funding was a significant problem because no bank wanted to lend her money. She refused to give up and now she is known as India’s first Biotech queen.

Meena Ganesh founded India’s largest outside-of-hospital healthcare company called Portea Medical to offer care at home. Her advice to other women entrepreneurs is – The road between starting up and reaching great heights requires unwavering commitment and a lot of resilience to overcome the challenges.

Founder of Niramai, Dr. Geeta Manjunath explains that a tragedy in her family turned her focus to breast cancer. Learning something new and trying to solve problems have been motifs in Manjunath’s journey. Only few people turned up for the first breast cancer screening session organized by Niramai, the team still kept going and currently they do thousands of screenings every month.

Preetha Reddy, the Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals, not only established herself as a pioneer in India’s healthcare sector but also played a significant role in various initiatives, one of which was helping the Indian government introduce the NABH.

Perseverance, resilience, hard work, and humility, are keywords which resonate from above- quoted examples. Women’s contribution in leadership roles percolate across all levels – implementation of different policies, supportive of all spheres of the society. The benefits of women-led businesses are infinite yet we are lacking when it comes to gender-related gaps in filling senior roles. Women in health contribute 5% to global GDP annually (US $3Trillion) as suggested by  a WHO report published in 2019. Of this, almost 50% is unrecognized and unpaid. In such a scenario what is the way forward?

The way forward

Women leadership in healthcare to become an absolute imperative, we need a four-pronged approach.

Better understanding of the segment – We can no longer afford to neglect half the population of the country! Equal participation of women in the economy would enable an estimated $160 trillion increase in global GDP. Increasing women participation in business will enable the creation of solutions that are tailored for women and society. Women-led startups are making a foray today, solving for not just female health issues such as maternity, fertility, and menopause but also for other challenges.
Some of the common names are- Proactive for her, Hera, That Sassy Thing, Ava, Helofy, Say Cheese, Zealthy etc.

More investments & mentorship opportunities – There is a need to relook at investments for health leadership to be inclusive, diverse and equitable. Mentorship for women at different stages of their leadership cycle is also imperative.
Currently, there are various programmes offering these capabilities such as CXXO by Kalari, Google Programmes, Aspire for Her, among others. 

Including more women in the workforceHealth leadership relies on the ability to prioritize, offer right strategic direction, and drive commitment. Today’s changing health systems therefore need a rethink in terms of bringing more women in the workforce. Another important step is making it easier for mothers to come back to work post maternity leave.
Many startups are encouraging and helping new mothers like- JobsForHer, Sheroes, HerSecondInnings etc

Women-Friendly PoliciesAt the policy level, while there are initiatives in place by the government, it is time that multiple stakeholders come together to bring in the much-needed change. This will help in addressing social barriers, build resilient systems, and therefore, pave the way for diverse perspectives.
Govt schemes like the Bharatiya Mahila Bank Business Loan, Dena Shakti Scheme, Udyogini Scheme, and the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana are focussed towards empowering women  across different stratas of life to build small businesses of their own by providing access to capital.

The way forward: a collective responsibility

For meaningful, lasting change to take place, corporations, governance and family units have to all come together. Concerted and intentional efforts can accelerate women’s leadership in health. This means changing perspectives and deep-rooted sociocultural beliefs to ensure there are equal opportunities available to all. When we believe and work towards gender transformative leadership, the resultant policy decisions will benefit all.

(The author is a CEO, HealthCube. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)

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First published on: 10-01-2023 at 09:00 IST