Keeping Women in Health
Following last year’s “Ada Lovelace” Day and to coincide with UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrating women in science, technology, engineering and medicine, MWF and FPM are proud to announce the launch of the ‘Keeping Women in Health’. This joint project will develop initiatives supporting the role of women’s health in the maintenance of population health, the importance of women in a healthy, resilient society, and raise awareness of the need for investment in women’s health, women in healthcare, health innovation and biomedical research.
For millennia women have been the cornerstone of healthcare provision, from the ‘wise women’ who knew the healing properties of herbs to the local midwife who delivered all a village’s babies, women have kept society healthy. As the science of medicine evolved, the knowledge of the wise women was belittled, even considering them witches, and eventually, even childbirth became the domain of the male physician.
It has taken many decades for women to achieve any degree of success in healthcare, medical science and clinical research and yet women’s health is still not a priority for health services and clinical research. (The link between the words ‘hysteria’ and ‘hysterectomy’ as its cure in the Victorian era, has taken a lot of work to overcome!) Women still lag behind men in medical leadership positions both in healthcare and in research, both academic and pharma.
The proportion of women clinical academics decreases with seniority, with women holding only 19% of Professorial positions, 37% of Reader/Senior Lecturers positions and 44% of Lecturers. This contrasts with women making up 47% of all licensed doctors and well over half of those in training. (Medical Schools Council 2018). Pharma has a similar pattern with women accounting for only 25% of leadership teams; with only one female CEO among the top 10 pharmaceutical companies (https://resultshealthcare.com/insight/women-in-healthcare-leadership/2019.)
The lack of women in senior positions in the life sciences and investment in women’s health has led to lack of innovation in medicines for women. As of January 2021 only 6 of big pharma companies are listed as running clinical trials in new drug women’s health programmes in 20 conditions (Source: http://pharma.globaldata.com/Drugs/ Feb 2021). These include uterine fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and menopausal symptoms, conditions which affect a significant proportion of women. Pregnancy presents a separate challenge with pregnant women generally excluded from clinical trials. In 2020, 80% of Covid-19 studies actively excluded pregnant women (Taylor et al. Lancet Global Health 2020; https://doi.org/10.1016/ S2214-109X(20)30484-8)
Our initiative will promote the value of women’s health to society and a nation’s economic prosperity, celebrate the successes of women in healthcare and biomedical research, support the women healthcare innovators of the future, and seek ways to attract, develop and keep women in the health sciences.
A series of workshops, including case studies, will be held to cover a range of topics. These will include:
- The enrolment of women of all ages, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, in clinical research and the potential risks and benefits of this approach
- Stimulating investment in the women’s health sector including globally affordable treatments
- Why women are fundamental to maintaining a healthy population and therefore a healthy (and prosperous) society
- The role of women and women’s health in rebuilding after the global pandemic
- The value of women healthcare professionals in delivering innovation in clinical research and healthcare.
To register your interest in this programme and to receive updates, please click here.
Professor Neena Modi, President MWF
Dr Flic Gabbay, Vice President, FPM