Not your parent’s white paper
Rock Reports combine aggregated data with expert anecdotes to tell a story, delivered in a
user-friendly format. In this report, we wanted to better understand the roles and experiences of
US women working in healthcare, and ﬁnd areas for improvement. This report sources data
from public sources, healthcare companies and a survey distributed to women in the space.
Caveat: we are not professional white-paperistas, just curious advocates who like to share
knowledge and further discussion around important topics.
Rock Health is powering the future of the digital health ecosystem, bringing together the brightest
minds across disciplines to build better solutions. Rock Health funds and supports startups
building the next generation of technologies transforming healthcare.
Rock Health partners include Aberdare Ventures, Accel Partners, California HealthCare
Foundation, Fenwick & West, Harvard Medical School, Genentech, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft,
Mohr Davidow, NEA, Nike, P&G, Qualcomm, Quest Diagnostics, Silicon Valley Bank, UCSF
and United Health Group. For more information, visit www.rockhealth.com.
Report by: Nicola Kamath, Sona Makker, Halle Tecco and Leslie Ziegler
“Sexism is not a glass
ceiling. It’s a labyrinth
of micro-inequities that
add up over a lifetime”
AMY CUDDYProfessor at Harvard Business School
Source: Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011
Source: AAMC, 2011
Source: “Women in Medicine” by Catalyst Research, 2011
Source: 10 of the 52 speakers at TEDMED 2011
Source: Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals, hospital websites
Source: Top Global Healthcare VCs 2010 (Venture Xpert), VC websites
Source: 2010 Fortune 500, company websites
Why are women
We asked 100 women,
What are the biggest barriers
for your career advancement?
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%
Ability to connect with senior leadership
Education / Skills
Source: Rock Health Survey of 100 women in healthcare, 2011
Gender roles continue to exist in the
workplace, making this progression harder
than originally imagined. For example, I
work in a company that fosters women to
rise, with full support from upper
management. However, the same upper
management is male dominated, making
it diﬃcult to form a strong connection.
I feel a little less conﬁdent than my
male counterparts to take up
leadership or presentation
responsibilities within the workplace
made to senior male leadership.
My male coworkers are more likely
to take credit for a job, whereas I tend
to share credit with those that have
helped me in the process of carrying
out a task.
It wasn't until I was working through the
ranks of middle management that I saw
how diﬃcult it can be for woman to
advance into senior leadership roles. I
think it is a natural tendency to hire,
promote, and mentor individuals who are
most like you so by virtue of fewer women
in senior leadership positions I think that
dynamic contributes to a woman's ability
KATIE VAHLECo-Founder & Patient Advocate of CoPatient
DR. BRIDGET DUFFY
Early in my career I served as
Medical Director at one of the
world’s largest medical device
companies. The company was
hosting an annual CEO Summit,
and when I walked into the large
auditorium I was struck by the
audience. I turned to the CEO
and whispered, “and you wonder
what is wrong with healthcare
today?!” The room was ﬁlled with
300 white, middle aged men! I
couldn’t believe my eyes. I
thought, where are the women
leading these organizations!
I believe the lack of women executive
leaders (in terms of numbers as
compared to men) is due to not having
enough role models and women not
knowing what they can achieve in this
IYA KHALILCo-Founder and Executive Vice President of GNS Healthcare
43% No mentor
Do you have a mentor?
Source: Rock Health Survey of 100 women in healthcare, 2011
"Mentorship" is a bit of a loaded word.
How about just building genuine
relationships? That’s hard too given I
don’t drink beer, which is all my
coworkers do outside the oﬃce.
Finding mentors that
system is what I ﬁnd
The few women leaders
that I want to connect with
seem too busy to build a
relationship with a junior
person like me.
Trying to ﬁt a reproduction schedule within
a growing career is always on my mind.
My male peers (and partner) give this signiﬁcantly
less thought. Making room has forced me
to reconsider my aspirations for academic
leadership. And it’s also leading me to be more
creative and look beyond academia into careers
in business and public health that are dynamic,
ﬂexible and still interesting and engaging.
DHARUSHANA MUTHULINGAMMedical Student at UCSF
As women, the most valued qualities in our
private lives have not caught up to our
professional lives. What I am rewarded for
professionally (drive, intensity, etc) can hurt
me personally. Women have to have a very
honed on/oﬀ switch. That is why we are
STEPH HABIFBehavior Designer/Strategist
Data shows that women are at
the center of healthcare decisions
in the family unit and experience
the full spectrum of healthcare
delivery. As leaders in the
healthcare system, women bring
ﬁrsthand views as customers.
They can then help deﬁne and
improve on these experiences,
making the healthcare system
more user friendly, convenient,
and eﬃcient. As healthcare
professionals, women bring
empathy and increased
communication skills. This is
an industry where women
can naturally lead.
SUE SIEGELPartner at Mohr Davidow
The healthtech startup that
doesn't recognize that every
household has what I call the
"Family Chief Health & Wellness
Oﬃcer" (aka "Mom" in many
cases) is missing the boat. The
reality is that the female head of
household makes 80-90% of
healthcare decisions. I've often
joked that men make the
purchase decisions for beer,
batteries and tires with women
making most of the rest of them.
This is especially true in
DAVE CHASEFounder & CEO, Avado
Engaging women in health
provides great insight from life
experience–into the mechanisms
through which good health can be
maintained, risk factors identiﬁed,
and health conditions treated.
Women are all too often viewed
as the target beneﬁciaries of
specialized health programs–
but not strategically engaged as
the drivers of the solutions that
will revolutionize the way that
health services and products
are designed and delivered.
PATTY MECHAELExecutive Director,
It is called healthcare for a
reason. Find and focus on what
you authentically care about.
Focus on the impact you want
to make. Plan for pushback.
That makes it much easier to
persist, to overcome the inevitable
challenges, to seize the right
opportunities, to spend the time
necessary to become expert in a
certain area, to rally not only your
own but others’ resources, time,
skill, and talent around your goals.
DONNA CRYERChairman of the Board,
American Liver Association /
CEO, Cryer Health
Showcase the women’s successes.
Let our daughters see what women can achieve.
Support reversals of traditional domestic roles.
Encourage your workplace to oﬀer paid parental leave for fathers, too.
Serve as a mentor to other women.
Build relationships with women at every level.
Oﬀer to guest blog, speak at conferences, and make your voice heard.
Attend events for women.
[Like the Rock Health XX Day in April.]
How can we reduce barriers and
promote more female leaders?
You are in charge of your career!
Invest the time to invest in yourself,
take stock of where you are in your
career progression on an ongoing
basis. And don’t take yourself to
seriously. Laughter helps!
- Sue Siegel
We need more women leading the
charge in this ﬁeld. I have beneﬁted
greatly from fantastic mentors and
encourage women to ﬁnd
cheerleaders and individuals who
are doing the things that they would
like to do to explore the possibilities.
Find other women who “Think Big” and
want to disrupt the status quo in healthcare.
Cold call someone you admire that has
done something transformative in the
industry and ask them to serve as a mentor.
- Dr. Bridget Duﬀy
Words of wisdom
Healthcare companies need to
take an active role in grooming
women for executive positions for
eﬀective succession planning.
Making these investments early on
willpay oﬀ in the long run.
- Rebecca Woodcock
“Just don’t give up
trying to do what you
really want to do.
Where there is love
I don’t think you
can go wrong.”