Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” is especially close to our heart. At Edge Health, we are lucky to boast a team of 13 incredible women, all bringing invaluable contribution to innovation and technology in healthcare analytics and consulting.
We have asked them for their thoughts on today’s celebration, and share with everyone their nuggets of wisdom.
How can we build on our past successes to create a better future for all women?
1. Advocate for equal access to education and training for women in tech.
2. Work towards equal pay.
3. Create a more supportive and inclusive work environment for women in tech.
4. Recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in tech and their contributions to the industry.
How can we ensure that women of all backgrounds and experiences are included and represented in conversations about women in technology and innovation?
1. Create inclusive environments that recognise and value diversity.
2. Providing opportunities for these women to participate in and lead conversations and initiatives related to technology and innovation.
3. Include and consider the perspective of women from all backgrounds and groups.
Marta Berglund, Analyst
How do you think healthcare consulting and data analytics can help improve healthcare outcomes for women and girls specifically?
1. Impartially shining a light on health inequalities, using data.
2. Building business cases to equitable allocate funding for services where it will optimise health outcomes
What changes do you hope to see in the industry over the next 5-10 years, and how do you see yourself contributing to those changes?
I would love to see more women in leadership roles – specifically in the entrepreneurial space. I hope that I could help normalise this for others. At a policy level, I think things like stronger government policies for parental leave even in SMEs could help.
Jennifer Connolly, Senior Consultant
Why do you think IWD is important?
IWD sheds light on all the important work that women have done that may not have been recognised in the past, and acts as a conversation starter on how we ought to be supporting women around the world in every industry going forwards.
Can you share a moment where you felt empowered as a woman, and what made that moment so meaningful to you?
Growing up my mom was a strong female presence in my life. She started her own business when pregnant with me, and still runs that business today on her own. I feel both empowered and inspired when hearing stories of her working with other women from my home town to create a network of strong female entrepreneurs. As well, I’ve had the opportunity to work with her all-female team on projects in the past and was empowered through receiving recognition from clients on our great work as women in the industry.
Kate Cooper, Analyst
What are ways men can be good allies? What do we need to do to engage and inspire male advocates?
I believe men can be good allies by recognising their privilege and using it to empower and support women. I think what needs to change for this to happen is the narrative around gender equality. The fight for equality concerns all genders and ultimately will benefit all genders. This needs to be taught to children in schools starting when they’re very young.
What would you change about the world for women if you could?
I would love for all women across the world to have access to healthcare and education. Health is the essential building block, while education provides you with the knowledge and skills to pursue your goals and dreams.
Virginia Dall’Ó, Senior Analyst
How do you think we can encourage employment of women in consulting and data analytics?
Show them that it’s the new normal, and women excel at this kind of work – events like IWD are the perfect occasion for this. In our day to day, we should show that we value and respect their views – include them in decision-making, place on them the same level of trust and responsibility than on men, and be careful to avoid discriminating remarks in the workplace (a colleague – not at Edge! – once kept calling me “young lady”; which demeans the individual both personally and in the eyes of others).
How do you balance your personal and professional life, especially in a field that can be demanding and high-pressure?
I feel very lucky to live in a society where I am no longer pressured into giving up my career to look after family & home. Women, however, still do most of the caring (and may wish to do so). My main advice would be to take pride and joy in your career, find what excites you about it and then ditch perfectionism and unrealistic expectations. Use work as a way to express yourself, rather than a way to prove or define yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and be kind to yourself.
Lucia De Santis, Analyst and MD
What would you say to young girls to inspire them to look towards data as a career?
Show them what women have achieved in the field and emphasize that careers in data can cover nearly every interest one has. You do not need a degree in computer science or mathematics to excel in data careers but instead can apply different background knowledge to help solve problems.
What challenges have you faced, as a woman, entering this industry?
1. Lack of female role models and mentors in the field
2. Perception of it being a male-dominated field with a gender bias
3. Lack of educational institutions encouraging girls to pursue a career in the field
Laura Dell’Antonio, Analyst
What is the most satisfying aspect of your work as an Analyst/Consultant?
In general having the opportunity to improve healthcare for everyone! This includes women’s health, but also reducing health inequalities for other patient groups and striving to ensure everyone has access to the same quality of healthcare.
If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
1. Rosalind Franklin – her research was central to the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, although credit for the discovery was originally given to Francis Crick and James Watson, who were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1962. It would be amazing to hear her perspective of working in such a male-dominated field at the time, and also appreciate how far we have come since then.
2. Emma Watson – partly as a Harry Potter fan, but also she has been a great advocate for women’s rights and has been actively involved in promoting gender equality and women’s health for many years. In her role as UN Women Goodwill ambassador she ran a campaign aiming to engage men and boys in the fight for gender equality, which I think is really important.
3. Michelle Obama – an obvious choice, but definitely an inspirational woman!
Catriona Mackay, Senior Analyst
What do you think will help combat gender stereotypes?
I think that education is the most important tool to combat gender stereotypes as they are often present from childhood. By treating all children in school the same regardless of their gender and encouraging girls to pursue careers than are stereotypically chosen by men, children will be less likely to pick up gender stereotypes.
This year’s IWD theme is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, what does this mean to you?
Women are often left out from the design of innovative or technological tool. This leads to gender inequalities being rooted at the very base of such tools. They often don’t take into account how a women’s experience could be different from that of a man. Innovation and technology can help reduce gender inequalities if it gives similar opportunities to everyone.
Julia Mayer, Analyst
Can you share an example of a project or initiative you have worked on that has had a positive impact on healthcare outcomes for women?
I am currently working on a regional audit of breast pain clinics. These clinics aim to improve the experience of patients (most commonly women) presenting to primary care with breast pain as their only symptom as well as patients entering urgent breast cancer pathways. Research has indicated that the risk of breast cancer in patients with breast pain as their only symptom is very low and, even where the patient is found to have cancer, is only coincidental. However, breast pain remains a frequent reason for referral from Primary to Secondary Care, often on an urgent (2-week wait) pathway. The referral often causes significant patient anxiety and subjects them to numerous scans, including ultrasounds and mammograms. It also adds pressure to already strained 2WW pathways, delaying treatment for those most in need. Therefore, using data to prove these breast pain clinics offer patient, staff and health system benefits, will be a step towards improving the health outcomes and care experiences of women across the country.
What perspective can a woman bring to the data world?
Unfortunately women in data analytics and data science remain underrepresented. This is concerning as female perspectives in health data will help to ensure that women’s health issues get the attention they deserve. There is a growing understanding of the historic biases within health research which has limited the understanding of women’s health and led to reduced health outcomes for women. We need to do more to help change this and one key way that’s possible is to get women into the data field and bringing their perspectives and lived experiences to the job.
Lucy Pirkle, Senior Analyst
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women after you?
I think it is important that women don’t become complacent, and maintain an international vigilance to ensure equality for every woman. I personally have witnessed many positive changes in equality- but am also living through misjustice targeted at women- we must make sure that the energy and passion to make positive change is consistent.
What can we do to ensure that the accomplishments of women throughout history are not forgotten?
Keep talking! Learn and share- it is important we keep the stories alive and remember to share the new accomplishments too. We need to search for, and share the stories of women’s achievements and ensure they are not mis/under represented.
Sarah Shelley, Office Manager
How have you seen gender equality evolve throughout your life, and what changes do you hope to see in the future?
Having spent my childhood in India, I witnessed a shift in the role women played in society: moving from traditional domestic roles to professional roles especially in the information technology industry. This has not only increased representation of women in the professional sector but has also led to women becoming financially independent and be heard when raising concerns about their rights. Even though the UK is more liberal, I would still like to see even more women in STEM roles (especially women of colour).
When you were 8, what/who did you want to be as a grown up?
I wanted to become an architect. I loved building structures with my LEGO so I pictured myself as an architect which as an 8 year old seemed like a glorified version of a LEGO builder!
Aditi Shetty, Analyst
What do you hope to achieve in your career in healthcare consulting and data analytics, and how do you see yourself making a difference in the lives of women and girls?
As cliché as it sounds, working in healthcare I would hope that I can make a difference to the lives of those around me, through using data to improve access to and quality of healthcare. On a more personal level, I am hoping that I can inspire girls and young women to step into the roles and fields that are not necessarily characterised by high representation of women. The work we do is important, valuable, exciting, and fun! It is important for girls and women to know that they can thrive in a field like this, should they choose to give it a try.
What is your International Women’s Day message?
I would encourage all of us to take stock of the part women played in history, how far we have come, and how far further there is yet to go. In 1928, women and men were given equal voting rights for the first time. A lot has happened in less than a hundred years that followed. And so much more will happen in the next hundred years. The realisation that it is up to us to make it happen now takes a second to sink in.