The pandemic reaffirmed the effectiveness of women leaders – now it’s time to rise to the challenge and empower women leaders to help transform healthcare.

The COVID-19 crisis was a test of political and business leadership in 2020. Decision making had to be guided by values – leaders had no experience of a global pandemic. At stake? The health of the population and the economy, with every nation invested in the outcomes. 

The crisis leaves world governments and institutions with questions and opportunities in 2021 and beyond:

  • Where, and who, are the leaders we need to support with authority and resources?

  • How do we capitalize on what we have learned in order to transform healthcare?

COVID-19 will be defeated. Vaccines, and people being vaccinated, will be part of that. So will redesigning how and where we work, as well as making work more human-focused and inclusive, so that nobody is marginalized because of race, gender or any other reason.

The maxim “never let a good crisis go to waste” is our invitation to reinvent, particularly our leadership. COVID-19 exposed our global weaknesses; one of the biggest is that women leaders are an underutilised asset in healthcare. 

Women have shown up as particularly effective leaders during the pandemic. Countries led by women hadconfirmed deaths from COVID-19 than countries not led by women. The media attributed the difference to a combination of greater decisiveness, pragmatism, resilience and humanity. 

We talk about these womenduring a crisis because they are famous. But what about the thousands of others who make enormous contributions, without whom our healthcare system could not function? They are not famous, but for sure they are under-appreciated and inadequately compensated. 

We have more evidence daily; the impact of the pandemic on gender inequality and leadership disproportionately. Their jobs aremore vulnerable than men’s jobs during the pandemic. 

Now is an opportunity – an imperative, really – for healthcare institutions, companies and governments to address gender equality. It is the right thing to do, and will have a significant impact on global health and the global economy for years to come.

The difference between acting (or not acting) now to reverse the gender inequity trend? A $13 trillion addition to global GDP in 2030, versus the GDP being $1 trillion lower if inequity is not addressed, according to The McKinsey Global Institute.

Data from the pandemic validated the effectiveness of women leaders. But in the healthcare industry (where women make 80% of purchase and use decisions, and represent 65% to 75% of the workforce) only 30% of senior executive teams andof CEOs are women. 

Post-pandemic, women must play a much larger role in healthcare leadership. We need to ensure they stay employed and increasingly take on decision-making roles in companies, hospitals and policy-making, especially given the evidence of their effectiveness.

At Roche, we can be proud of our progress on gender equity. The question is, will we, as healthcare industry leaders, be more proactive in advancing women’s leadership? Will we, in our areas of accountability, take further action now? Are we willing, within our sphere of influence in healthcare and government, to support more women in leadership roles? 

I am committed to challenging the status quo. I will enable more women in decision-making roles. I invite others inside and outside the organisation to join me as movement leaders. It is clear to me that this is an obvious industry transformation, and we at Roche are particularly well-placed to take action. 

Last year we launched a pilot project sparking conversations with women around the globe, and this year we will build an online community for Healthcare Women Leaders across industry and non-industry partners. Look for more information on how you can join soon.

We need you to join us, not just on, but every day. Rise to the challenge. Speak up. Call out inequality. Increase opportunities and #ChooseToChallenge in healthcare and anywhere inequity persists. Our global future depends on it.

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