Women should take a lead role in healthcare

Women should take a lead role in healthcare

As women, we must continue to be confident in recognising our strengths and not be afraid to venture out of stereotypical roles, to the benefit of our entire society.

By Mina Abdulla Hamoodi

Published: Sat 12 Mar 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 13 Mar 2016, 11:48 AM

As we celebrated International Women's Day last week, it is an opportune time to consider the significant influence that women bring to healthcare through our distinct perspectives and experiences, both as patients and healthcare professionals, areas I feel are essential in creating a more inclusive and responsive healthcare system that truly works for us all.
With over 50 per cent of our population here in the UAE being women, and with the majority of healthcare decisions being made by women on behalf of their families, remarkable strides have been made in recent years to empower women in healthcare, both through increasing their professional opportunities in this flourishing strategic sector, and by making it easier for them to access essential healthcare services. A prosperous society needs strong healthcare as its foundation, and women must be at the heart of this in order to best relate to society's healthcare needs and deliver the most effective systems possible.
Conquering gender parity and helping women and girls achieve their ambitions in a more inclusive and gender-balanced environment is the theme for this year's International Women's Day, and in no area is this more important than healthcare. As women, we must continue to be confident in recognising our strengths and not be afraid to venture out of stereotypical roles, to the benefit of our entire society. Apart from building a sustainable and diversified economy, UAE's 2021 vision recognises this by also championing a knowledge-based and highly productive economy that will harness the potential of its human capital. In the past year, the UAE has been making significant progress in fostering an innovative and gender-balanced economy and society, with the most prominent step being incorporating five female Ministers in its latest cabinet re-shuffle. As an Emirati female, and the CEO of Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre, I am proud to be leading a company that is at the centre of these efforts. 
Through the fact that over half of our leadership team is made up of Emirati women, our general practitioner medical team has strong female representation, and a majority of our callers are women, the Centre is a true representation of a pioneering, female-led approach to healthcare for a modern, digital Abu Dhabi. Yet we know more has to be done as the 2015 World Economic Forum report stated, that the global gender gap across health, education, economic opportunity and politics has closed by only four per cent in the past 10 years, suggesting it will take another 118 years to eliminate this gender gap completely.
Women's involvement in healthcare makes a real difference
Simply put, women in healthcare makes a huge difference for a number of reasons. Firstly, as the primary decision-makers over medical issues for their families, women are at the heart of most people's engagement, directly or indirectly with the healthcare system. Women, therefore, need to feel heavily engaged in our healthcare system and ensure that we are open and welcoming to their needs. At Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre, a majority of our callers are women, often new mothers calling late at night for pediatric advice, coughs and colds, fevers and stomach illnesses, forming some of the 1,700 different conditions we have diagnosed to date.
The other side of the equation involves actively encouraging women to be a part of the development of a world-class healthcare system, which is where I decided to build my career. Evidence suggests that as organisational leaders, women bring a variety of skills and perspectives to business environments that result in a focus shift in decision-making. Women are known to value emotional intelligence, empathy and open communication, as well as to work in collaborative ways, important in the field of telemedicine, as it requires being able to translate human judgment and emotion through the medium of technology. To support this, and at the heart of our ethos, we have promoted forward-thinking policies such as flexible family and child friendly working options, as well as through providing mentoring opportunities for women to shine as leaders without compromising on their personal lives.
Where next?
As women, it is important for us to acknowledge our strengths and not be afraid to showcase our leadership in what may be seen as traditionally male dominated professions, especially in management. We are looking to encourage the next generation of female healthcare practitioners to support growth in our sector and are confident that Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre is providing role models for those aspiring to work in healthcare. Crucially, entering the healthcare sector as a woman does not mean you have to be a doctor or a nurse but rather, just as I've experienced, there are plenty of opportunities available across all aspects of healthcare from finance to strategy, business development and IT. We are excited by the impact we have made on-, and for women in the past eighteen months and as we look at ways of expanding and working with a wider range of partners, including Dubai and the Northern Emirates, we are confident that we can make further gains in widening access to our healthcare system.                
The writer is a chief executive of Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre, which offers 24/7 access to medical professionals over the phone for any non-emergency medical conditions. Views expressed by her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

More news from Health