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08 March 2023

Celebrating International Women’s Day in our 20th year

Author: Bianca Coulter

Bianca Coulter, CEO and Founder, on Womens Health and what #EmbraceEquity means to her

I am feeling particularly reflective this IWD, because this year is our 20th birthday. For two decades, we have hired leaders and designed organizations working at the cutting edge of science, including multiple clients serving the Women’s Health industry. It is deeply fulfilling knowing we have supported organizations and investors driving innovation in reproductive health, women’s cancers, endometriosis and fibrosis, menopause, and health tech, all making progress to address unmet needs. It is sadly a fact that Women’s Health is under-funded and still viewed by many as “niche”, or even “taboo”. At a recent health tech industry conference, I met with several male investors who assured me that with a differentiated and high potential business plan, it is a credible investment focus. Frustratingly, when we went into a dedicated Women’s Health panel session, the audience was nearly all female with only three men in the room (none of whom were investors!). The investment world is seemingly still dominated by men, and unless there is greater investor interest, it will be a struggle to attract high-profile leaders and the brightest brains. There is a huge market opportunity here with breakthrough science and technology, but ultimately, we need more innovation and dedicated R&D investment. I was shocked to read in a recent McKinsey report that only circa 1% of healthcare research and innovation is invested in female-specific conditions outside of oncology.

Women have to overcome so many challenges and while the needle is undoubtedly moving, determination and resilience are so important.

Slowly, we are starting to see a rise in female investors, which is helping to boost women’s voices, flows of capital, and expertise to the sector. IWD is about celebrating women, and I have always had great admiration for women who have been pioneering and founding their own businesses, as well as those that have risen through corporate structures traditionally led by men. They have to overcome so many challenges and while the needle is undoubtedly moving, determination and resilience are so important. It has always been our mission at Coulter Partners to use leadership consultancy and executive search to influence a wide range of companies and leaders to build teams and cultures that celebrate gender and diversity. When clients are hiring, we often help with defining their leadership needs. We are training ourselves and our clients to define capabilities and roles in ways that support diversity and decrease discrimination and bias. For women in particular, we have to work hard on bringing down the in-built barriers to their success as candidates and their attraction to leadership roles. We are working with experts to help us understand physical and mental health challenges for women in the workplace and seeing that so much needs to change.

By improving understanding and breaking down barriers, we can bring Women's Health higher up the agenda.

At Coulter Partners, we are on a broader diversity mission. We are now a team of 125+ with over 60% women, as well as colleagues who identify in ways beyond male/female. But we are not there yet, and we are continuously working on improving our knowledge and deeply committed to advancing inclusivity for everyone, understanding that diversity extends far beyond gender. For example, we are coming up the learning curve on Neurodiversity. We are proud to have built an environment with a key goal that everyone feels respected, listened to, and trusted. This is what #EmbraceEquity must mean for us. Only by striving to provide this education for everyone, enhancing our processes and addressing our biases, can we better support our colleagues and the communities that we serve.

The same applies to the stigma around Women’s Health; by improving understanding and breaking down barriers, we can bring it higher up the agenda. If this happens, we will see more investment, which will attract a richer pipeline of talent. Sadly, there is still an evident gender gap. Back to that conference, one of the overarching conclusions of the session from fellow panelists was that to close the gap, we need to shout a little louder and smash taboo topics.

In the 20 years running this business, so much has changed for the better, but we are still witnessing discussions that suggest there’s a long way to go. Why are we still embarrassed about using the word “vagina” on the conference platform? Let’s all be part of the change!


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