MedTech Is Experiencing a Diversity Problem

By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief,
Twitter: @rehackmagazine

Many industries, from cybersecurity to manufacturing, are facing diversity issues in the workplace. There are clear signs that marginalized groups are underrepresented. Consider technology industry — 50% of women in tech say they’ve experienced gender discrimination at work.

Another sector suffering from a lack of diversity is medtech. The overarching health care industry has struggled to achieve diversity for quite some time. In 2018, it was reported that 56.2% of active physicians were white.

It raises questions about how STEM education is taught in early education and how likely it is for minority students to pursue careers in the medical field.

A lack of representation in any industry comes with negative consequences. Failure to include people of different backgrounds and ethnicities can cause tensions in the workplace, making it challenging for all employees to do their jobs adequately. Hiring alone cannot spark the change needed to solve this issue.

A deep dive into the factors that contribute to this problem can hopefully shed light on possible solutions. Here’s what the industry can do to be more diverse, ranging from low-level employees to C-suite executives.

Benefits of Improving Diversity in Health Care

Diversity is something every company should work to achieve. It’s evident that improving workplace diversity can offer benefits compared to keeping a homogenous workforce.

Here are some of the benefits to reap when companies promote diversity:

  • Better collaboration between peers
  • Boosted creativity
  • Increased trust and transparency
  • More innovation
  • Reduced health disparities
  • Enhanced understanding

These positive effects of a diverse workforce should be enough to convince industry leaders to work together to find solutions to this issue. Investing in people with various backgrounds and ethnicities allows for better brainstorming and innovations.

Current research shows that just 20% of medtech leadership roles, such as executives, managers and senior officers, are held by women.

The numbers plummet when it comes to minority leadership in medtech — 83.3% of leaders are white, whereas 10.6% are Asian American, 3.1% are Latinx and 1.9% are Black. It’s easy to see the disparities here.

It’s clear that the medtech industry is made up of predominantly white males — any sector comprising one gender and race fails to represent everyone who makes up society. The effects of a homogenous workforce can be negative — interactions with clients can be affected by this diversity issue, for example.

It’s challenging to point to one reason for the underrepresentation of minorities and women in medtech, but let’s explore some of the contributing factors.

Underrepresentation Has Lasted for Decades

Diversity in the medtech industry garnered a sense of renewal in 2021 when the Black Lives Matter movement became more prevalent. George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police sent shockwaves around the world — and drew attention to the racial injustices Black people have faced in society.

The U.S. reached an inflection point during this time, and more people began discussing issues of diversity in all areas of life, including the workplace.

Some companies implemented cultural sensitivity training for their employees to foster a more inclusive place to work. The industry must acknowledge the structural inequalities that minorities face when trying to carve out a career path.

The issue of diversity is far-reaching and widespread, as it can negatively impact women, in addition to BIPOC. Of the 1,037 leadership positions in the medtech industry, an average of 19% of the roles were held by women.

Factors Contributing to Race and Gender Disparities

According to Pew Research Center, Blacks in STEM are four times more likely than whites to say their workplace fails to address diversity concerns. It’s no surprise that this is the case — the same research shows that Blacks face more instances of racial discrimination than their white counterparts.

One of the more significant reasons for the lack of diversity in medtech is directly related to the ineffectiveness of STEM education at an early age.

Lack of STEM Education
Blacks and Hispanics suffer the consequences of not being introduced to STEM early on in their academic careers. Blacks are also concerned about the lack of advancement opportunities in STEM fields, and the medtech industry is no exception.

Limited access to STEM education can have negative effects on young minority students. Without proper access, it’s rare for them to pursue a medtech career.

Hiring for Cultural Fit vs. Hiring Based on Credentials
More companies are aware of the need for a diverse workforce and sometimes have to meet quotas to ensure diversity is achieved. However, if a marginalized individual is hired based on ethnicity or gender, is that solving the issue — or is it perpetuating bias?

Hiring people based on their academic credentials can help enrich an organization and create new opportunities for businesses to be driven forward.

Organizations that place diversity on the backburner or trivialize it through their hiring process fail to contribute to an overall more inclusive job market.

Solutions to the Lack of Diversity

Now that it’s clear there’s a diversity problem in medtech, what are some possible solutions?

Mentoring Programs
Mentoring programs can help people of color advance in STEM fields, and specifically the medtech industry.

The goal of these types of programs is to help individuals reach their fullest potential in the field and grow personally and professionally. In doing so, employees prepare to take on more important roles, such as a manager or an executive.

Social, Academic and Financial Support
One of the key distinctions industry leaders need to make is the difference between equality and equity. In other words, meeting minorities where they’re at during their time at university and offering social, academic and financial support are viable options for achieving diversity.

Investing in young minority students and working with them through school partnerships can encourage them to pursue higher education and enter the medtech workforce. This is one possible way to increase the number of minorities and women in the medtech industry.

Current Programs Combating the Lack of Diversity

There are a handful of initiatives and programs that medtech companies are implementing to try and rectify the diversity issue they’re facing in 2021. Here are some of the programs and a brief description of each:

MedTech Color
MedTech Color is a nonprofit organization that works to advance the representation of minorities in the medtech industry. It uses thought leadership, community building and clinical trial participation from underrepresented groups to increase the number of people of color in the industry.

MedTech Women
MedTech Women, based in California, is helping females advance in medtech. The group is comprised of innovators across the industry, ranging from business leaders to financial investors.

While these programs are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, more efforts are needed to reach the next level of diversity. This is something every medtech company needs to invest in and work toward.

Creating an Inclusive Future in MedTech

The ultimate goal is to create more job opportunities for marginalized groups so the medtech industry better represents society. Whether through a mentorship program or cultural diversity training, the sector must work to find innovative solutions to the issues it’s currently facing.