Best intentions cannot be allowed to take a gradual approach. One such is 'Embrace Equity'. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The call for gender equality has never been more urgent. The pace of change across all sectors coupled with the innovation and next-gen problem-solving needed to respond to some of the planet’s greatest challenges, has made it more important than ever to drive representation across every level 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. These are very positive signs. However, only 25 per cent of senior leadership roles are held by women.

This is a massive opportunity being missed. We cannot innovate for everyone if we do not represent everyone. This is especially important in healthcare, where women make up the majority of the workforce but are vastly underrepresented in leadership roles. It is not only a gender matter but also a business and societal challenge, and it is time we take action. As the world recognizes International Women’s Day, the theme of ‘Embrace Equity’ serves as a timely reminder of the urgent need to address this systemic challenge.

Reshaping the narrative

When we talk about embracing equity, it needs to be more than a hashtag or a catch phrase we leverage for a day. It means understanding the leadership team of any organization or industry should reflect the market itself – including the perspectives and experiences of women. It is not just 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 prioritizing women’s health issues, leading to more data being generated that has to-date been missing and created a gap in care. Indeed, 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.

At Novartis, we are committed to increasing female representation and empowering women leaders in healthcare and beyond. We understand that diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords, but essential ingredients for success. That’s why we joined the United Nation’s Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) in 2018 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 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 and we have achieved global balance in management with men representing 53 per cent of our managers and women at 47 per cent. And 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. While 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.

Beyond the hashtag

What is important to realize is that International Women’s Day will come again, but this issue remains unless we do something to change it. That is why instead of just posting and writing about ‘embrace equity’, we actually need to live it. We need to challenge the status quo and take a stand for human rights – including women’s rights.

We need to be willing to take risks and place a bet on diverse leaders who bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the table. This is how we will break the glass ceiling and unlock the full potential of female leadership.

I challenge all leaders to commit to advancing female representation in their organizations and sectors. We must ensure that women have equal access to opportunities for leadership, mentorship, and career development. We need to create a culture where women can thrive and succeed, and where their contributions are recognized and valued.