International Women’s Day provides an excellent opportunity to recognise the vital role that digital technologies play, and will increasingly play, in supporting women’s health now and in the future. This day also provides an opportunity to highlight just how important women innovators are within the digital health ecosystem. We recently launched cohort six of our Accelerator programme and we are incredibly proud to say nearly 40% of companies are either Female-majority owned or have no clear majority.
We spoke to a handful of innovators from our Accelerator programme and asked them what International Women’s Day means to them, any reflections they had from their journey as a woman working within the digital health space and what advice they’d give to aspiring innovators.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
Pahini Pandya, Co-Founder & CEO at Panakeia, said, “I think International Women’s day is both an opportunity to look into the past to celebrate the achievements that women have made to date and at the same time, it’s also a platform for us to come together and jointly look forward to and decide how we are going to change the future.”
Lorin Gresser, CEO at Dem Dx, said, “For me, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to be mindful. To remember all those that have contributed, lead and worked so hard to redress inequalities of the past to enable us and future generations to have the opportunities that are available today.”
Tiba Rao, Director of Innovation at Soar Beyond (SMART), said, “I have been fortunate to have never lacked female role models. Having grown up with a single mother, a strong survival instinct has always prevailed and furthermore, as my part of Indian cultural lineage we come from a rare matriarchal society in Kerala, where the familial name and property is passed down to the daughters. It wasn’t actually until I attended an IWD event as a recruit with Accenture in about 2005, that I fully appreciated the need for International Women’s Day; how much work there is still left to do to address gender equality. It serves as both a spotlight on the chasm we need to collectively address as well as a celebration of sisterhood.”
What have been the highlights and key learnings from your journey as a woman within the digital health space?
Pahini said, “Health is one of the few spaces where women have truly shone and its one of those really collaborative spaces where people help each other to thrive. Another key reason I entered entrepreneurship is because I wanted to have life-long learning, similar to what I would have had if I spent a decade in academia. I have been on an extremely accelerated growth journey and the personal growth that I have had is unlike anywhere else, whether I was working in industry or academia – I do not believe that I would have had that level of growth.
The third key learning is the amount of joy that I get every single day, that I am getting to do something that I am passionate about, and the impact it’s going to have on people’s lives. This is what drives and motivates me every day. It is not an easy journey but the mission and impact is what drives me immensely.”
Lorin said, “I’ve learnt to do what you believe in, with passion and determination, and don’t let naysayers get in the way. Being an entrepreneur in the digital health space is a real privilege. Med tech is at an inflection point with so many innovative and disruptive solutions all with the aim of improving the health and provision of care.”
Tiba said, “My key learnings revolve around being a creative person working with technical people to bring the vision and concepts to life; being able to communicate concepts and supporting others to visualise and implement these is key. I find good old flipchart and PowerPoints are essential to getting things created in the way I envisage them.
Although it’s still true that technology and digital health tends to be male dominated, there are many inspiring female role models who are leading the way and I have been honoured to meet many as part of our DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme.”
What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs looking to break into the digital health space?
Pahini said, “Number one is that entrepreneurship is hard, so you need to be very persistent. The second thing I have learnt is that oftentimes as women, we are scared to ask for things, perhaps for the fear of getting a no, however the answer could be the yes you were wanting, so always ask, always get out of your comfort zone, push yourself and ask. Be ambitious, accept it and be yourself.”
Lorin said, “Follow your passion, and your interest whatever it may be. Try not to give in to pressure to conform to someone else’s idea of what you should or should not do/be. Entrepreneur is a challenging journey, but you are part of such an exciting community striving to make a real positive impact on the world we live in. You will have an amazing experience and learn a tremendous amount at the same time.”
Tiba said, “It’s a myth that you have to be technical to be a digital health pioneer. My formula is: simple solution + belief + passion + tenacity + power team = success!”
Tiba shared a final quote: “A strong woman knows she has strength enough for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will become strong.” – Unknown
Check out these additional stories on the power of FemTech:
The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator is a collaborative programme funded by two of London’s Academic Health Science Networks – UCL Partners, and the Health Innovation Network, as well as MedCity, CW+ and receives match funding from the European Regional Development Fund.