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Business News/ Industry / Women occupy only 18% of leadership roles in India's healthcare sector, earning 34% less than male counterparts: Report

Women occupy only 18% of leadership roles in India's healthcare sector, earning 34% less than male counterparts: Report

Most women are concentrated at the frontline in low-paying jobs in the country's healthcare sector. There are 29% female doctors in India, at least 80% of nursing staff including midwives, and nearly 100% of ASHA workers

Asha workers shout slogans in Thane (File photo) (PTI)Premium
Asha workers shout slogans in Thane (File photo) (PTI)

A wider gender imbalance has been reported in India's healthcare sector in senior management roles, a study shows. While India has 29% female doctors and 80% are in nursing departments, there is a significant under-representation of women when it comes to leadership roles, especially at the executive and board levels, according to "An Unbalanced Scale: Exploring the Female Leadership Gap in India’s Healthcare Sector" report by Dasra. 

Women's workforce occupy only 18% of leadership roles in India's healthcare sector, earning 34% less than their male counterparts. Globally, women occupy only 25% of senior positions and a mere 5% of leadership roles in the healthcare sector.

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The report underscored that stereotypes regarding women’s commitment and competence, social norms influencing work environments, and the misconception that diversity does not enhance profitability contribute to a web of obstacles affecting women’s career paths.

Besides, the report noted that the scarcity of qualified women candidates hinders their entry, retention, and advancement in healthcare leadership roles. As of 2021, only 17% of hospital board members in India were women, despite the majority of healthcare workers in the country being female.

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"The underrepresentation of women in roles with the highest potential signals a deeper challenge and calls for intentional strategies, mentorship programs, and organisational policies that empower women to overcome these hurdles," Shailja Mehta, Director at Dasra told Mint.

India's healthcare sector workforce

According to Dasra report, the healthcare sector in India employs 9.3 million people as of 2021, with approximately 85% working in the private sector, including sub-sectors such as hospitals, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, financial services, diagnostics, medical equipment and supplies, health technology, etc. The remaining 15% are engaged in the public sector, including public hospitals, financial services, and government bodies like the Ministries of Health and AYUSH.

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Acknowledging the gender disparities in leadership roles in India's healthcare sector, Dr Junaid Ansari ( Pediatrics), Cygnus Laxmi Hospital said, "While strides have been made towards gender equality, certain specialties still exhibit imbalances. Factors such as traditional gender expectations, implicit biases, and limited mentorship opportunities contribute to this gap. It's crucial for institutions to actively promote diversity, providing equal opportunities for career advancement. Additionally, addressing societal expectations around gender roles can help reshape perceptions and create a more inclusive environment for both male and female doctors".

Women's leadership in India's healthcare sector

Most women are concentrated at the frontline in low-paying jobs in the country's healthcare sector. There are 29% female doctors in India, at least 80% of nursing staff including midwives, and nearly 100% of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs). However, women across the healthcare workforce, on average, earn 34% less than their male counterparts.

Fields with a higher concentration of female doctors, such as gynecology and pathology, tend to have a higher representation of female sales representatives. Conversely, in historically male-centric specialties like orthopedics and cardiology, there is a noticeable male dominance in sales roles as well.

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"From a female doctor's standpoint, navigating a career in medicine often involves confronting gender-based challenges. Certain specialties may be less accessible, and biases can affect promotion opportunities. It's essential to foster mentorship programs and advocate for transparent promotion processes. Emphasizing work-life balance and supportive policies can also attract and retain female talent. Collaboration between male and female doctors, coupled with organizational commitment to diversity, is key to dismantling barriers and ensuring equitable representation in leadership roles. Addressing these issues collectively is fundamental for creating a medical landscape that values competence over gender," Dr Nidhi Singhvi, Consultant Gynecologist, at Regency Hospital said.


India’s healthcare sector is 14 trillion in size and employs 93 lakh people across private and public sectors, projecting an outlook of 11-13% Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)18, fuelled by increased healthcare spending, increase in chronic and non-communicable disease burdens.

By 2030, India's private healthcare sector is anticipated to add eight million employees, generating 40,000 new leadership roles, particularly in private hospitals, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and health technology.

Changes in the organsation level such as easy and safe recruitment, inclusive environment, and ensuring seamless reintegration of

women into the workforce after career breaks due to personal care responsibilities, without penalizing them in their career progression can help in dwindling the gender gap in leadership roles.

On a policy level, Dasra suggested that the government can promote diversity in senior leadership through initiatives to raise awareness of board diversity in listed companies. For instance, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry collaborated with the Tokyo Stock Exchange to introduce “Nadeshiko Brands," wherein companies that encourage women’s empowerment and leadership are highlighted as attractive investment opportunities.

"Governments can facilitate change by reforming legal and policy frameworks. For example, France introduced a gender equality index to evaluate companies' diversity policies and Switzerland mandates wage equality audits," the report added.

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Mansi Jaswal
I write about gender-related issues, women's rights, women empowerment, gender equality, women's health topics, and their wealth management. Also, profiling women who have fought all odds to make their own identities in their own rights. Before Mint, I worked at Business Today and Business Standard. I studied journalism at IIMC, Delhi. Got a story idea? Email me at
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Published: 05 Dec 2023, 01:37 PM IST
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