The pace of change witnessed across all sectors in recent years, combined with the need for innovation and next-generation problem-solving to address some of the planet's greatest challenges, makes it crucial to drive representation across every aspect (or part) of the supply chain.
When it comes to the healthcare sector, women account for 70 per cent of the industry’s workforce globally and 59 per cent of all graduates in the medical, biomedical, and health sciences fields. Although these are very positive signs, only 25 per cent of senior leadership roles globally are held by women - which represents a significant missed opportunity. If we do not represent everyone, we cannot innovate for everyone. This is especially important in healthcare, where women constitute the majority of the workforce but are vastly underrepresented in leadership roles.
The lack of gender diversity in leadership is not only a gender issue but also presents business and societal challenges. In an interview, Tracy Goodridge, Head: Novartis Middle East & Africa Aspiring Markets, stressed that it is crucial to take action to address this systemic problem. As the world celebrated International Women's Day earlier this month, the theme of Embrace Equity served as a timely reminder of the urgent need to bridge the gender gap and ensure equal representation in all sectors, including healthcare. Excerpts:
In your opinion, what does it mean to "embrace equity", and why is it important for organisations and industries to have female representation in leadership positions?
When we talk about embracing equity, it needs to be more than a hashtag or a catchphrase we leverage for a day. It should mean understanding that the leadership team of any organisation or industry should reflect the market itself – including the perspectives and experiences of women.
It should not just be about diversity for diversity's sake; research shows that diverse teams are more innovative, productive, and successful. In fact, a McKinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 25 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.
Female representation in leadership positions can also play a key role in prioritising women’s health issues, leading to more data being generated in women’s health that has to date been missing and created a gap in care.
Inclusive research starts with inclusive leadership, and it’s up to both men and women across all ethnicities and abilities to ensure this equity is embraced.
How can we create a culture where women can thrive and succeed and where their contributions are recognised and valued on International Women's Day and beyond?
To create a culture where women can thrive and succeed and where their contributions are recognised and valued, leaders should commit to embracing equity, challenging the status quo, and standing up for women's rights. This involves taking risks, placing a bet on diverse leaders who bring innovative ideas and fresh perspectives, and breaking the glass ceiling to unlock the full potential of female leadership.
Organisations must create a culture that values and recognises women's contributions, whether it's through acknowledging their achievements, providing equal pay and benefits, or ensuring their voices are heard in decision-making processes. Creating a culture where women can thrive also requires a long-term commitment to gender equity and a willingness to take action to address systemic inequalities.
By supporting women's career growth, providing equal opportunities for leadership, mentorship, and career development, and creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace, organisations can promote gender equity and help all employees reach their full potential.
What specific initiatives has Novartis undertaken to increase female representation and empower women leaders?
I am so proud that Novartis not only talks about increasing female representation and empowering women leaders in healthcare and beyond but actively puts in the steps to achieve it. We understand that diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords but essential ingredients for success.
In 2018, we joined the United Nation’s Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) and pledged to conduct regular gender pay equity analyses and remediate annually as appropriate to help prevent pay differences. We also pledged to eliminate the use of historical salary data when making internal and external officers, and we committed to pay transparency by sharing with our associates their pay as compared to internal and external benchmarks.
So far, we are live with pay transparency in 32 countries globally, and we have achieved global balance in management, with men representing 53 per cent of our managers and women at 47 per cent. 100 per cent of our associates globally have access to parental leave, and 84 per cent of our recruitment efforts no longer ask for historical salary.
A further 47 per cent of associates now have pay transparency to external benchmarks and 85 per cent of associates are covered by a regular pay equity study. To date, we are still the only pharma company to have signed the EPIC Pledge.