FemSTEM: Bridging the Gender Gap in Health Innovation

Mar 9, 2017

Huda IdreesHuda Idrees will be speaking at FemSTEM on March 15. (photo by Chris Chan)

Women trying to enter the health innovation sector may find they face a gender gap, whether it's trying to secure venture financing or finding networking or mentoring opportunities. U of T alumna and Dot Health founder Huda Idrees is trying to address these challenges through FemSTEM, a panel discussion hosted by the Health Innovation Hub. Alongside Professor Ruth Ross (Deptartment of Pharmacology and Toxicology), Professor Gabriella Chan (Deptartment of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology), and Andriana Ieraci (lecturer in the Translational Research Program), she’ll be looking at some of the unique roadblocks women in health innovation have to overcome and some of the ways we can work towards diversity and equity. Idrees spoke with Faculty of Medicine writer Dan Haves about FemSTEM and the gender gap in health innovation.

What are some of the issues that you see women facing when it comes to breaking into the health innovation sector?

Healthcare innovation is fundamentally more difficult than most other industries and most new ideas require capital to get off the ground. Women receive just three per cent of venture financing, so they're at a disadvantage from the start.

What does this lack of diversity mean for the quality of healthcare?

Healthcare, of all the industries out there, has a need to be egalitarian. Diversity when it comes to healthcare can be the difference between life and death. If we don't, for example, recognize and understand what makes us biologically different, it makes it harder to treat healthcare consumers equally.

What are some of the things that can be done to bring more diversity and equity into this sector?

It has to start with the money. We need to look at who is being funded. Venture Capital across North America has poor female representation and it's mapped almost directly to the types of founders being funded. When the government makes initiatives available, we should look to fund females and underrepresented minorities proportionally.

Why are you taking part in FemSTEM?

I'm a U of T alumna, part of the health innovation hub, and committed to ensuring health innovation not just happens but is spearheaded right here in Ontario. I'm excited to discuss reasons that make Ontario an incredible place for this and to share some of my learnings from Dot Health.

FemSTEM takes place on March 15 (2:00 – 4:00pm) at 263 McCaul St, Rm 120. RSVP here.

 

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