Can the Future Be Female in Healthcare?

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By Shaleta Dunn

The current environment is one of tremendous opportunity for women in the healthcare industry. New technology is shaking up the playing field, opening up opportunities that did not previously exist. Women-owned firms are making huge progress by embracing new technology and addressing previously unmet needs in fields like patient experience, telemedicine and consulting.

In 2016, about a third of all US businesses were owned by women, but only 10 percent of med-tech startups were founded by women. The vast difference can be attributed to a lack of access to capital, generally lower numbers of women in technology and a lack of mentors and sponsors to help them launch a startup company. 

Additionally, the significant scale required to make an impact in the healthcare space will always be a tremendous barrier for any entrepreneurs to enter the market place. However there are many things that women-led firms can do to help them succeed.

  • Know the industry and know where you want to participate: The healthcare industry is enormous – hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, group purchasing organizations, manufacturers, distributors, insurance, and more are all sectors within the healthcare industry. For entrepreneurs in particular, the biggest way to gain traction is to spend time to really understand the industry. Once you understand the industry and its needs, you can provide real value to your customer. 
  • Get certified as a woman-owned business: Most health care companies and provider organizations are committed to expanding opportunities for women-owned business. These companies have been formally reviewed and accredited with being at least 51% women owned, controlled and operated. This certification provides accessibility to various corporate and government programs as well opens up new resources for capital and other funding. It is also a tool that a diverse business can use to further showcase the value they provide as a supplier. 
  • Know the decision makers: This is key before you ever make contact. It is essential that you are speaking to the right people, those who are making the buying or contracting decisions. It is also important to know and build relationships with potential sponsors and mentors. Individuals such as the organization’s supplier diversity professional who has responsibility for assisting stakeholders in finding capable, diverse suppliers.
  • Be Recognizable and network:There are a litany of organizations that can help you connect with businesses including industry specific, diversity, volunteer, and government. As an example, at Vizient, women-owned firms often connect with us through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), of which Vizient is a corporate member. 
  • Participate: Boards and symposiums are excellent places to connect with decision makers. Vizient and many of our hospital members participate in the WBENC or NMSDC regional councils. Women entrepreneurs have access to the list of regional councils of those organizations and have the opportunity to participate in various ways.
  • Be nimble and innovative: The advantage start-ups have over established multinationals is their ability to embrace change, utilize new technology and new ways of thinking. This allows you to provide a unique offering that many large companies value from their vendors. 
  • Ask for feedback after an RFP – Many organizations will offer feedback to suppliers who are not awarded during a RFP or bid process. This feedback is a valuable tool to enriching customer knowledge and relationships. It is important to understand your customer’s procurement process so that if the opportunity arises you can ask for feedback or any other offerings that are available for diverse suppliers.

It is in all of our interests to encourage a more diverse and inclusive industry that draws in a broader range of perspectives to improve overall performance. Businesses can help make this a reality by taking an active role in cultivating more women-led vendors. A good place to start is by becoming a resource to women-owned businesses. Offer to mentor with the expectation they will mentor others, share your list of diverse suppliers across industries to spur further opportunities, become a champion in your organization for diverse suppliers and an example of a trusted and valued partner.

Shaleta Dunn, is senior director of program services for Vizient.

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