An industry that thrives on being innovative and disruptive has every reason to be a frontrunner in diversity and inclusion and the rewards it brings.
That was the message conveyed during one of the six panels hosted by Fogarty Innovation, “Navigating the Call to Diversity,” from the MedTech Strategist Virtual Summit which is available on demand until November 20. Fogarty Innovation is a co-organizer of this year’s virtual conference that launched on October 15 and has been among one of the most popular meetings of the year, with over 500 attendees from 26 countries.
Moderated by Marga Ortigas-Wedekind, chief commercial strategy officer for Fogarty Innovation, the panel featured Donna Collins, senior director global marketing for Stryker Neurovascular; Maria Sainz, CEO of Aegea Medical and co-founder of Diversity by Doing Healthtech (DxD); and Kwame Ulmer, venture partner at Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health, founder of MedTech Color and principal of Ulmer Ventures.
The session aimed to examine what the diversity playing field looks like, specific to the medtech environment, and share success stories and suggestions for what players in the industry can do to escalate progress.
The panel was optimistic about growing diversity, emphasizing that it is not only possible, but absolutely necessary. The benefits of diverse workforces, executive teams, boards and investment groups are well-known, and backed by countless studies. And the market itself makes the case very compelling as female consumers are known to be responsible for the majority of healthcare decisions.
Overcoming potential obstacles surrounding diversity
While many companies enjoy diversity in entry-level positions, the management teams who have the power to set the culture become less diverse as they climb the ranks. And it can be easier for larger organizations that have more resources to dedicate a portion of those to advancing the cause of inclusiveness and diversity.
Yet while it may be more challenging for smaller organizations to do the same with their limited resources, it’s important for them to make it a priority. Diversity of thought is crucial to the ability to identify risks and respond to those risks innovatively in a way that meets the needs of investors and the marketplace. That’s why companies must turn to creative thinking to create these diverse teams, particularly now when resources are more constrained.
Many times the reality is that an entrepreneur will hire the people they know, sticking to their own network which likely looks just like them. The key is to change that formula and realize the value of moving beyond their comfort zone by getting outside of their networks.
Promoting a more inclusive team
Money talks, and one lever that can be pulled is putting capital in the hands of companies that are already diverse or incentivizing non-diverse companies—for example through diversity riders contingent upon the company making a commitment to diversity.
But the more important step is for leaders to realize that relying on doing things the way they’ve always been done is shortsighted, especially in an industry built on innovation and focused on looking at problems in new ways. As the panel pointed out, it is an industry of risk takers, and no one joins it to be “comfortable.”
One way to get started creating a more diverse team is to experiment with one or two key placements, or even by using consulting agencies to bring in different talent and insights.
Another suggestion is to make the management team’s voice heard by bringing inclusiveness and diversity to the table in front of the board and VCs. Young companies can seek an inclusiveness champion within their venture firms by looking at other portfolio companies who have built a more diverse talent group among senior executives.
To support the philosophy that “what gets measured gets managed,” companies can assign metrics in thier business objectives and performance.
Finally, on a personal level, it’s important to look to yourself in what Stryker CEO Kevin Lobo has described as a “roadmap” of your personal demographics, examining your daily interactions and habits—what does your supervisor and partner look like? Who did you go to lunch with the last five times? What kind of music do you like? If you see your roadmap as relatively narrow, you can take steps to expand your comfort zone by having lunch with someone outside your regular circle or attending an event (virtual, likely, these days) you normally wouldn’t. These small steps will add up to increasing your own personal diversity.
The spirited and highly informative conversation underscored the reality that the medtech industry is known for embracing innovation—and diversity and inclusion must be a vital part of it.
The following resources were shared for more information:
⦁ AdvaMed Accel: https://www.advamed.org/AdvaMedAccel
⦁ Alpha VC: https://alphavp.com
⦁ Astia: https://astia.org
⦁ Diversity by Doing (DxD) HealthTech: https://stanford.io/3kkVkmj
⦁ MDMA: https://www.medicaldevices.org
⦁ MedTech Color: https://www.medtechcolor.org
⦁ MedtechWomen: https://medtechwomen.org
⦁ Valence Community: https://valence.community
Organizations committed to fund/support diverse small companies:
⦁ HBCUvc: https://www.hbcu.vc
⦁ McDermott Will & Emery law: https://www.mwe.com
⦁ Medtech Innovator: https://medtechinnovator.org
⦁ Pledge LA: https://pledgela.org
⦁ Scale Health accelerator: https://www.scalehealth.com