Women in senior healthcare industry roles improve connections with patients

Most healthcare consumers are women, making it easier for female healthcare marketers to connect and understand their needs.

From left to right: Kazmi, Towers, and MM&M editor-in-chief Marc Iskowitz
From left to right: Kazmi, Towers, and MM&M editor-in-chief Marc Iskowitz

NEW YORK: Having more women at the top of healthcare agencies and companies could trickle down to better connections with patients, said healthcare industry execs at the inaugural Medical Marketing & Media Hall of Femme event in New York on Thursday.

However, while pharma and healthcare marketing are recognized as careers where women can flourish, that doesn’t always extend to the C-suite. For many healthcare agencies and companies, the boardrooms are still predominantly male.

Most healthcare consumers are women, making it easier for female healthcare marketers to connect and understand their needs, noted panelists Shabnam Kazmi, VP of patient access and adherence at Otsuka America Pharmaceutical and Sierra Towers, director of marketing at Boehringer Ingelheim.

"At the end of everything we do is the patient or the caregiver, and that is so often a woman," Towers said. "There is such an emotional aspect of this industry. We put the patient in the center on paper, but women can bring some of that emotion back in."

One of the first things women can do is assess their own strengths, likes, and dislikes in their jobs. Kazmi compared it to a chessboard, explaining that women need to know what piece they are on the board before making moves.

"You need to be thinking about your will and skill," Kazmi said. "What drives you internally? If you communicate these interests and if you continually educate the people around you, it helps them think about you as a building block in the organizational structure."

Towers added that challenging yourself is also a good practice.

"Know what you're interested in and chase it, and know what you're not good at," Towers said. "Challenge yourself to take on projects that round out who you are."

The panelists were asked about the pay gap and both encouraged women to always ask for more pay. A previous employer of Kazmi’s told her that they always pay women less than their male counterparts because women always ask for a lower salary. She told the audience to "ask for more than you ever dream you would ever get."

The panelists offered parting advice to women in the industry. Kazmi encouraged women to work together and Towers, agreeing with Kazmi, added that women should work for themselves as well and "take control" of their own careers.

"Support each other -- we don’t do that enough as women," Kazmi said. "Tee up women for opportunities and support each other. It really makes a difference."

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