Women's Leadership in Health Care


  • Roberta Lipson, Founder and CEO, United Family Healthcare
  • Faith Muigai, Regional Director, SafeCare Program, PharmAccess Foundation
  • Claire Omatseye, Founder and Managing Director, JNC International
  • Ulana Suprun, Acting Minister of Health, Ukraine


  • Sanola Daley, Global Women’s Employment Lead – Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services, IFC

Healthcare is a sector where 70 percent of the workforce is female yet only a small fraction of senior leadership are women. On the public side, there are just 51 female health ministers out of 191 countries.

Day 2 of the conference kicked off with a breakfast discussion on women’s leadership in healthcare featuring Ukraine’s Acting Minister for Health and three females in leadership positions in emerging market healthcare who were profiled in a newly-published IFC report on the topic. The panelists looked at challenges to advancing female leadership and suggested ways in which organizations and individuals can think differently on the issue.

Ukrainian health minister Ulana Suprun noted that male domination of leadership in the healthcare space extended both to developed and developing countries. Suprun, who was raised in the United States and ran a private medical imaging practice for 15 years, offered three bits of advice for younger women seeking to advance into leadership: be yourself—“don’t change to be someone else’s image of a leader”; form networks and support one another; and “be careful what job you take, who you are working with, where the money is coming from.” The minister was the driving force behind legislation that Ukraine passed in 2017 to reform its healthcare system, which created a publicly-funded national health insurance scheme, universal health coverage, and raised standards of quality.

“Be yourself, don’t change to be someone else’s image of a leader.”—Ulana Suprun

According to Claire Omatseye, Managing Director of JNC International, a Nigeria-based turnkey solutions company that represents 19 global medical equipment manufacturers: “What tends to happen is that as you move up in the ladder, women tend to whittle out—either from some self-inflicted issues, that when the jobs are out there we don’t have the determination, the boldness to go grab them, or the fact that there is so much bias in the industry that we get left out on the way,” she said. “In Sub Saharan Africa this is changing. Women are getting bolder. There are more women on boards; certain policies have helped to change things: the quota system, recognition of what women bring—diversity, out-of-box thinking,” she added.

Kenya-based Faith Muigai, Regional Director of PharmAccess Foundation’s SafeCare Program, which helps healthcare organizations deliver high quality, safe healthcare through internationally-recognized standards, said: “In Africa, we are still struggling for women to be at the table. There is a gradual shift—but the pace is not amplified in the way it should be.” She also touted the benefits of networking, urging women to “create your own girls club” and “nurture your young, pull them with you.”

“In Africa, we are still struggling for women to be at the table. There is a gradual shift—but the pace is not amplified in the way it should be.”—Faith Muigai

Roberta Lipson, the founder and CEO of United Family Healthcare who has more than 30 years of experience working in China’s healthcare system, described how her organization has elevated the traditionally female-dominated profession of nursing within its power structures. Specifically, the role of Chief Nursing Officer has co-equal authority with Chief Medical Officer and Chief Administrator in all their facilities, she noted.



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