Survey responses were received from 403 unique individuals. Respondents were 37.7% male (n = 152) and 62.3% female (n = 251). They varied in age from under 30 to over 60, with a majority (57%, n = 230) in the 40–59 age range. 80.1% were married (n = 323), 12.4% had never been married (n = 50), and 7.4% (n = 30) were separated or divorced. 73.2% (n = 295) had children.
When asked to rate factors that influenced their choice of a career in medtech, most respondents (79.4%, n = 320) said that the desire to help people and improve healthcare was a major motivator. The next most frequently cited motivator was the desire for challenging work (57.3%, n = 231).
Respondents had worked in health technology for an average of 17.2 years and had been with their current company for an average of 5.8 years (Figs. 1a and 1b).
The companies where respondents were currently employed ranged from very small to very large as follows (Fig. 1c): 23.3% 1–10 employees (n = 94), 16.4% 11–25 employees (n = 66), 9.9% 26–50 employees (n = 40), 12.9% 52–100 employees (n = 52), 11.9% 101–500 (n = 48), and 25.6% more than 500 (n = 103).
The proportion of male and female respondents varied by current company size (p < 0.001). Men were disproportionately represented in the smallest companies, with 33.0% (n = 50) working at those with 10 employees or less. Women were more likely to work in large companies, with 32.0% (n = 80) holding positions at organizations with more than 500 employees.
5.2% of respondents were currently employed as independent contractors, 8.7% were individual contributors (i.e., no supervisory responsibilities), 11.6% were managers, 16.4% were directors, 18.4% were VPs, 32.0% held C-suite titles (executive-level positions such as CEO, CFO, COO), and 7.7% selected “other” (Fig. 1d). A disproportionate number of all men completing the survey were in C-suite positions (50.6%, n = 77).
56% of respondents reported that their company was headquartered in California (n = 225), followed by 5.7% in Minnesota (n = 23) and 5.5% in Massachusetts (n = 22). All other states had less than 5% representation.
When asked about the gender of senior leaders (directors and above) at their current companies, only 9.9% of respondents (n = 40) worked in a company where the majority of leaders were women (Fig. 2a). Of that 9.9%, the majority (55.0%, n = 22) worked in small companies (10 employees or less) (Fig. 2b).
61.0% of female respondents (n = 153) and 69.7% of male respondents (n = 106) reported that they have or have had a mentor in their health technology career. When asked the gender of their most influential mentor, 86.8% of men (n = 92) and 55.6% of women (n = 85) cited a male mentor. 69% of all respondents with mentors (n = 179) indicated that those connections had been “very helpful” in their careers.
Job Satisfaction/Inclusive Environment
Male and female respondents were presented with a series of statements that served as proxies for job satisfaction (e.g., “I speak freely at meetings; my professional contributions are heard and valued”) and an inclusive environment (e.g., “The workplace empowers women to reach their full potential”) and asked to indicate whether they agree, disagree, or are neutral/have no opinion.
Across genders, respondent agreement with the proxy statements for job satisfaction and inclusive environment was linked to job retention. Of the 214 respondents who agreed with at least five of the seven proxy statements, only 15.4% were thinking about leaving their jobs. (Note: Five out of seven was subjectively chosen as a stronger indicator than agreement with a simple majority.) Of the 189 respondents who did not agree with five or more of the statements, 40.7% were thinking about making an employment change (p < 0.001).
Women responding to the survey were more likely than men to be thinking about leaving their current job. 16.4% (n = 25) of men were considering a change compared to 33.9% (n = 85) of women (p < 0.001).
When those considering a job change were asked why, 44.7% of women (n = 38) reported that they were “dissatisfied with management” compared to 8.0% of men (n = 2). 42.4% of women (n = 36) were “seeking more opportunity for advancement” compared to 8.0% of men (n = 2). Approximately the same percentage of men (32.0%, n = 8) and women (32.9%, n = 28) were thinking of leaving because they were “seeking more interesting/challenging work.” 40.0% of men (n = 10) and 5.9% of women (n = 5) cited “other” reasons.
When those considering a job change were asked what they planned to do next, 40.0% of men, (n = 10) and 75.3% of women (n = 64) reported that they would seek another full-time job in health technology. 32.0% of men (n = 8) planned to start their own companies, while only 1.2% of females (n = 1) reported this intent. 12% of men (n = 3) and 12.9% of women (n = 11) planned to work part time or become a consultant.
Being male and/or having a mentor were both associated with higher scores on the proxies for job satisfaction and inclusive environment (Figs. 3a and 3b). Male respondents and those with a mentor scored higher on all proxy statements compared to female respondents or those without a mentor. Most differences were significant as indicated by the asterisks (p < 0.05).
When we compared women with and without a mentor, women with mentors had significantly higher scores on responses to all job satisfaction/inclusive environment proxies (p < 0.05). When we compared men with and without a mentor, men with mentors had significantly higher scores on their response to all job satisfactions proxies (p < 0.05). However, having a mentor did not result in any significant increase in men’s scores on proxies related to inclusive environment (e.g., the last three factors listed in Figs. 3a and 3b).
Perceptions of Equality
When asked whether they personally viewed men and women as the same or different on a series of workplace characteristics, men were more likely than women to report that they viewed both genders the same, while women reported more variation between the genders. For example, 92.7% of men (n = 140) said they viewed men and women as equal in strategic ability whereas only 77.0% of women (n = 191) shared the same opinion (Fig. 4). Male and female respondents diverged most in their personal views on the characteristics of assertiveness, emotion, empathy, and executive presence. All responses were statistically significant between male and female responders (p < 0.001).
Respondents who indicated that they believed men and women were “viewed differently” for any given characteristic were asked in a secondary question whether they thought that trait applied more to men or women. In general, male and female respondents presented with these follow-up questions agreed in their assessment of which traits applied more to men vs. women, especially on the characteristics of assertiveness, emotion, empathy, and executive presence.
For example, for the characteristic of emotion, 150 men answered the preliminary question. 45 said the genders were “viewed differently” and were presented with the secondary question. 42 assigned emotion to women (93.3%) and 3 assigned that characteristic to men (6.7%). Similarly, 248 women answered the preliminary question and 144 said the genders were viewed differently with regard to emotion. Of those, 141 (97.9%) assigned emotion to women and 3 (2.1%) assigned that characteristic to men. Male and female responses were similar for empathy. The same pattern was present for assertiveness and executive presence, but with both male and female respondents overwhelmingly assigning those characteristics to men.
Next, respondents were presented with a series of issues and asked to use a four point system to rate where they believed the greatest inequalities exist between men and women in their workplace. Across all issues, men perceived lesser inequalities compared to women at significant levels (Fig. 5; p < 0.05).
A set of barriers with the potential to hold women back from senior leadership roles was included in the survey and respondents were asked to select the top four they believed to be most problematic (Fig. 6). 70.4% of females (n = 176) listed “exclusion from networks of communication and influence” as a top concern limiting women from advancing into senior leadership roles compared to 42.5% of men (n = 62), while 61.6% of men (n = 90) cited “desire to balance work and family” compared to 45.6% of women (n = 114).
Respondents were asked if they had observed or experienced gender discrimination while working in health technology. Overall, 53.3% (n = 215) responded affirmatively. 72.1% of women (n = 181) said that they had observed or experienced gender discrimination, while only 22.4% of men (n = 34) answered the same way (p < 0.001).
A write-in box provided for respondents to optionally describe the gender discrimination they had observed or experienced garnered 196 responses, with the plurality of comments (49%, n = 96) focused around two main themes: (1) bias in hiring or promotion process, and (2) perceptions of qualifications and competence. The next most common theme (22%, n = 43) involved not being heard or taken seriously, not having one’s accomplishments acknowledged, or not feeling as though one’s opinion was valued.
Of all respondents, 77.9% (n = 314) were in positions that required them to recruit and/or hire other employees. 69.1% of these individuals (n = 217) reported that they considered gender balance in their hiring decisions in addition to seeking the most qualified candidate, and 61.4%, (n = 134) stated that it was somewhat or very difficult to achieve.
When asked why it was difficult to achieve better gender balance in their company, 86.0% (n = 43) of responding males said this was due to a lack of qualified candidates compared to 59.5% of responding females (n = 50; p = 0.001). 40.4% of responding women (n = 34) chose the response “another reason.”
On the topic of work-life balance, there were significant differences between male and female responses. Only 15.8% of men (n = 24) felt that “family responsibilities make it harder to get ahead at work” compared to 29.1% of women (n = 73; p = 0.002). 32.9% of men (n = 50) agreed with the statement “I can start a family and continue to advance at the same pace in my current company as my peers without children” compared to only 17.5% of women (p < 0.001).
Only 12.2% of male respondents (n = 19) and 19.0% of female respondents (n = 47) had taken time off of work—besides maternity/paternity leave—to focus on family. The majority of men reported that it took them less than 6 months to return to work when they were ready (78.9%, n = 15), while the majority of women indicated that it took them more than 6 months (58.6%, n = 24).
The last section of the survey focused on fundraising in health technology. A total of 247 respondents (45.7% male, n = 113 and 54.3% female, n = 134) stated that they had been part of a management team seeking funding. When asked their title when fundraising, there were notable differences by gender. Within this subset of fundraisers, males represented 54.5% of founders/co-founders (n = 30), 65.7% of CEOs (n = 44), and 29.3% of senior staff (n = 27). Women made up 45.5% of founders/co-founders (n = 25) in this group, but disproportionately fewer CEOs (34.3%, n = 23) and disproportionately more senior staff (70.7%, n = 65).
Only 18.0% of women (n = 23) and 8.6% of men (n = 10) who had been involved in fundraising had pitched to any entities focused on investing in women-led companies. 47.7% of men (n = 54) and 81.1% of women (n = 103) reported that less than 10% of the investors they met with were female.
When asked if they believed that male and female members of their pitch team were treated differently, only 9.7% of men (n = 11) said yes compared to 47.0% of women (n = 63; p < 0.001).