The Biggest Medical Breakthroughs Came From Women You've Probably Never Heard of


Why diversity in healthcare sparks innovation.

American HerStory and Oliver Wyman

3 min read

Meet Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female to graduate from medical school back in 1849. The admissions committee initially thought Elizabeth's application was a prank, because of her gender. Instead, her application helped shatter the status quo and pave the way for other women who wanted to be doctors like her. Progress, however, has been slow. In 1966, only seven percent of graduating medical students were women. 2017 was actually the first year more women than men were enrolled in medical school.

Women in healthcare today make up the bulk of the workforce, but few females make it to the C-suite. "Healthcare in the US is an industry where women consumers make 80 percent of buying and usage decisions and represent 65 percent of the workforce – a relatively high share compared to other industries such as financial services (46 percent) or tech (26 percent)," states Oliver Wyman research. "Yet despite their influence as customers and the core workforce, they are notably under-represented in the industry's leadership – making up approximately 30 percent of C-suite teams and 13 percent of CEOs." 

Our short film below about the status of women in healthcare leadership highlights how women unknown to the general public like Elizabeth and beyond have shaped the healthcare industry thus far, and what leaders must do today to ensure diversity across their organizations drives meaningful impact tomorrow. Oliver Wyman and American HerStory argue that bringing more women into leadership roles means more ideas, more innovation, and more impact.  Why do healthcare's leaders need to care how many women are in the leadership roles in our healthcare companies? Because if you’re missing women, you’re missing a huge opportunity for women’s contributions and innovations. We urge more leaders to recognize that gender bias is often unconscious, invisible, and unintentional. And it's these "hidden" barriers that hold women back.

We hope this film sparks new awareness-driven mindsets and conversations across all organizational levels and industry sectors. These new ideas will allow men and women across healthcare sectors to innovate together so the achievements of women like Elizabeth become the norm, not the exception.

American HerStory & Oliver Wyman Present Women in Healthcare Leadership

  • American HerStory and Oliver Wyman