In 2016, the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies went down from 24 to 21. A mere 4.2% of these companies had a female leader at their helm and if you think that is drastically small, the numbers are as dismal when you look specifically at healthcare.
Despite the fact that women make up 78% of the healthcare workforce, only 8 of the top 100 hospitals have female CEOs. Rock Health reported in a study of gender in the healthcare field that out of 125 women who work at a Fortune 500 healthcare company, only 5 were in operating roles such as COO or president. This major disparity is why Junto Health and HealthTech Women have united to increase the visibility of female leaders in healthcare.
For the inaugural profile in our joint series, we choose to highlight one of today's major leaders in fertility and a member of the HealthTech Women community - Gina Bartasi.
Gina Bartasi has been a leader in the health tech field for over 20 years, providing endless insight and experience in platform and program development. Receiving a BS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and later graduating from the Harvard Business School, Gina founded FertilityAuthority, an information sharing site and social network for people struggling with fertility issues, in 2009. For 8 years, she sat on the Board of Directors and guided her company, as CEO, to become a leading resource for women and families.
In March 2015, FertilityAuthority successfully merged with Auxogyn to form Progyny, where Gina once again led as CEO and worked on creating a data and science based solution for employers. These solutions moved beyond simply choosing the most affordable options and instead focused on choosing options based on the best technology available. With the ultimate goal of increasing the number of successful births, Progyny was the first end-to-end, proactive fertility solution available for employers. Their programs encompassed everything from egg freezing and embryo scanning to IVF. Recently, CNBC ranked Progyny as #13 in their Top 50 Disrupter list.
At the beginning of 2017, Gina stepped down and began to embark on a new chapter in venture investments. When we spoke with her, we were able to gain some valuable insight on her current perspective on the state of women's healthcare and advice for women looking to make an entrance into the industry.
What have you accomplished in your career so far that you have been most passionate and excited about?
Gina Bartasi: I'm most passionate about doing good, while doing well. We were able to build a wildly successful fertility benefits company that's enabled thousands of Americans to build their families on their terms who were (most likely) previously unable. The gratitude that our families show us is incredibly heart-warming; and, through our enterprise business, that gratitude extends to the employer by the employee who is eternally grateful for the generous benefit. And, we were able to do well financially, particularly for our early investors and employees.
How has your time at Progyny and FertilityAuthority shaped your view of how the current healthcare system and insurance climate in the US handles women's and maternal health issues? What changes do you believe need to occur?
Bartasi: The majority of the healthcare and insurance decisions are still made by men, particularly at the very top, and it can be difficult to make women's and maternal healthcare investment decisions when you don't have first-hand experience, although I do see men who are committed to investments and changes in women's health. Very simply, more women need to be at the top making the investment and buying decisions.
As a female leader in the healthcare industry, what has it been like working in a male dominated field? What obstacles have you had to overcome?
Bartasi: I think you can't sweat the small stuff, and perseverance is key. You will hear "no" a LOT. Remain humble. People of both genders appreciate hard work and integrity. And, women can't do it alone. I've been fortunate to have male mentors and supporters throughout my career who championed on my behalf as well.
Do you have any advice for other women who are seeking to break into health tech/digital health that you wish you had known when you first started out?
Bartasi: Fundraising and understanding your cap table are key. Additionally, women should be dreaming bigger - thinking about how they build the next billion dollar company and how quickly they can get there and how much capital (and from whom) is required. And, if you're not a techie, having a tech partner is critical. Diversity is also important, so if you're a female founder/CEO, don't be afraid to hire a male CTO. If your strengths are on the technical side, then hire a male chief commercial officer.
What is on the future horizon for you?
Bartasi: After two very successful exits and spending the last 25 years on the operational side, I'll be moving to the investment side. We can't help female founders achieve enormous success without other women supporting them and helping them by writing big checks!