By: Laurie P Cooke, RPh, PGDip, CAE, CEO, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association

Human capital is more important than ever in today’s information- and innovation-driven economy, so the best minds are required, whether male or female. For the healthcare industry in particular, inclusion of women may be a matter of economic and strategic necessity, as well as social justice. Statistics show that women account for 80% of healthcare decisions for their households. From this perspective, studies support that ensuring women have the opportunity to achieve their full potential should be at the heart of an organization’s approach to competitive strategy and economic growth.

Gender parity should be pursued at three critical structural levels: hiring, career progression and board and C-suite representation. All three are essential and can be self-reinforcing. For example, having more female representation on boards and in leadership positions can help narrow the pay gap as female executives are part of the decision-making process for setting salaries and strengthening efforts to attract and hire women at the more junior levels. Further, a 2011 research report in Catalyst, Inc. showed that companies with three or more women on the board outperform companies with all-male boards by 60% on ROI, 60% on ROE and 84% on return on sales (ROS).

To attract the best talent, diversity and inclusion should be woven into the organization’s fabric. In other words, companies should lay out the best carpet by facilitating career opportunities and business connections that enable their female talent to ignite their full potential. The three criteria indicative of a supportive and gender-respectful organization are mentorship opportunities, leadership programs and flexibility. How does your organization stack up?

Experts contend that diversity is beneficial because it enriches the organization’s understanding of the marketplace, improves the quality of products and services and helps meet customer needs. One report shows that for every 1% rise in the rate of gender diversity and ethnic diversity in a workforce, there is a 3% and 9% increase in sales revenue, respectively. Gender diversity can also enhance creativity and innovation, leading to better problem-solving as a wider variety of options are generated and considered.

Organizations pursuing gender parity and diversity will reap the benefits of increased revenue, decreased costs, maximized profits, as well as more effective employee recruitment, improved employee retention, and an enhanced corporate image. Are you in?

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