Global Business School for Health


International Women's Day 2022 - Interview with UCL MBA Health Director Dr Julie Davies

8 March 2022

At the UCL Global Business School for Health we are committed to increasing opportunity for those who identify as women to excel in the healthcare sphere. We speak to Dr Julie Davies, Director of the UCL MBA Health, about gender disparity in healthcare leadership.

women sit at desk

Why is it so important for there to be a change in the gender disparity at the top levels of healthcare management?

A lack of women in top-level healthcare positions has serious implications for all of us. It’s a human rights issue that is bad for our health, society, and economies. The shocking fact is that global health is delivered by women and led by men. Yet women make up half the world’s population. The 2019 World Health Organization’s report “Delivered by women, led by men” stated that women represent 70% of the global health and social care workforce but only 25% of senior roles. 

At the UCL Global Business School for Health (UCL GBSH), are acutely aware that women are significantly under-represented in executive healthcare positions. Modern medical training is biased towards understanding male physiology which means that women receive inappropriate diagnoses and treatments which lead to inequitable health outcomes. Surprisingly, women’s health is seen as a niche specialism. It is vital, therefore, that far more women are enabled to work in senior leadership and management positions in healthcare to reduce gender disparities in health outcomes and to optimise the pool of available talent.  

How do you see the UCL GBSH helping to bridge this gap?

The UCL GBSH is strongly committed to the UN’s sustainable development goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. We can only bridge the gap between current gendered inequalities in healthcare provision and the ambition for universal healthcare by ensuring that women are educated and empowered to influence healthcare strategies and outcomes at the most senior levels. 

Within the UCL GBSH, we facilitate an inclusive culture of equity, diversity, inclusion, and respect within our own workforce and with our students and partners. The various UCL GBSH scholarships for women provide financial support and dedicated careers coaching on the UCL MBA Health to accelerate women’s careers as future senior leaders and entrepreneurs in healthcare management. 

How else can gender equality be achieved at the top levels of healthcare management?

We believe in fixing workplace systems such as gender pay gaps and culture. It is not about fixing women. Policies and systems which enable women to reach senior positions require visible and accountable senior leadership, evidence-based goal setting, action planning, monitoring, and reporting. Mandatory gender equality plans such as those required by Horizon Europe for organisations that are applying for research funding are interesting examples. Women must be seen as drivers, not just as recipients of change. 

Gendered social norms, expectations, conscious and unconscious bias, and stereotypes that discriminate against women must be tackled. Formal and informal networks for women’s leadership development, peer support and role models also matter. Leaders of all genders should be hired and evaluated on how they promote gender-transformative policies to ensure better global health outcomes. We must always call out privilege and power imbalances that are barriers to gender equality in healthcare. A 2019 McKinsey report emphasized improving promotions and external hiring processes, inclusiveness training, and flexibility in the workplace to support gender equality.

Why do you think there is a lack of women at the management level in healthcare?

The 2019 McKinsey report found three key reasons for the glass ceiling in healthcare: structuring challenges such as hiring and promotions; institutional biases; and daily work practices such as microaggressions. Narratives of think leader think man, conscious and unconscious bias and stereotypes in curricula and training programmes for healthcare workers mean that gender transformation in the health workforce is a moral imperative. A lack of equal pay for women and family-friendly policies can also result in the under-representation of senior women healthcare leaders. Pay inequalities and gender discrimination experienced early in a woman’s career can lead to multiple forms of disadvantage as a woman’s career progresses.

Does the future look bright for women getting into the C Suite in the healthcare management sector and think that we’ll start seeing more women getting into senior leadership in the next 5–10 years?

The healthcare industry is one of the best sectors for women so there are reasons to be hopeful. According to the 2019 McKinsey report, women are better represented at all levels in healthcare than in other sectors, they are promoted at similar rates to men, and report similar levels of career satisfaction. Clearly, the pandemic may have changed these findings. If the future of healthcare leadership is about being more patient-centric, then surely there must be a shift towards balancing the gender balance in the C-suites of healthcare organisations to mirror the proportion of women in the general population. 

Tell me more about the new Roche UCL MBA Health Scholarship, and how it has been designed to increase opportunity in underrepresented groups in the health leadership space.

We are very excited by the new UCL MBA Health Scholarship, which has been created in partnership with pharmaceutical company Roche UK. This scholarship covers the full course fee of the UCL MBA Health, and the successful applicant will also receive an additional £20,000 for living expenses. 

We are proud to announce this life-changing scholarship on International Women’s Day 2022. This scholarship is open for applicants from a low-income background, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)* background, or those who identify as female. The aim of this scholarship is to increase opportunity in underrepresented groups who historically have been less likely to apply to MBA programmes. 

We encourage those who identify as women to apply for the innovative UCL MBA Health and to this incredible scholarship opportunity – which will propel the successful applicant’s career and earning potential. We see the successful individual progressing to create a meaningful difference in the healthcare management sphere, and we cannot wait to see all that they will achieve.

Learn more about the Roche UCL MBA Health Scholarship

Applications for the UCL MBA Health are open

Elevate your ambitions, ignite your earning potential and harness the power of world-class innovators with an MBA that will place you at the cutting edge of health leadership. Learn more about the UCL MBA Health.

Start your application journey now