Health is wealth: Why we need more female leadership in healthcare

Female leader in healthcare, talking to a man wearing blue scrubs, female leadership


Saduf Ali-Drakesmith, Director at Hyland, reflects on the importance of fairness and collaboration in leadership. Drawing from her extensive experience in healthcare and technology, Saduf emphasizes the need for inclusive workplaces where everyone, regardless of gender, can thrive and contribute.

Saduf Ali-Drakesmith is a Director at Hyland and looks after Hyland’s Global Strategy for Enterprise Imaging.

female leadership

She has overall responsibility for providing strategy development and functionality for Hyland. Also taking on the development and implementation of key strategic initiatives aimed at growing revenue and helping advance Hyland’s leading position in the Enterprise Imaging market.  She is passionate about working with analysts to identify and evaluate market and customer directions shape and grow Hyland’s Enterprise Imaging business. 

Saduf has a great balance and mix, of both, clinical and technical skills. With a background spanning over 22 years’ in the Radiology/ Imaging field, including diagnostic reporting/ reading, Saduf brings a wealth of clinical expertise to Hyland as well as deep level technical knowledge in Radiology IT incl VNA/XDS/PACS & RIS’s and Digital Transformation Solutions.

When we’re talking about equality, it’s easy to conflate many different things.

Whether it’s representation in certain areas, access to equal opportunities, or simply a case of not receiving the recognition we deserve, we’re exploring different aspects of the same thing: fairness.

That fairness is an immutable part of my approach to leadership. It’s incredibly important to me to establish a working culture in which we collaborate to innovate, always trying to improve on who we are and what we do as a collective – but still giving credit where credit is due.

That goes for everyone in that environment, no matter their age, gender, colour, religion, or anything else. We’re better together, and we’re getting better together.

female leadership

Learning from the NHS

My approach here has been influenced by my time in the NHS, which has long been a champion of this approach and one of the UK’s most lauded organisations — a melting pot of different nationalities, backgrounds, and cultures. I’ve seen the fruits of that approach from my role as one of the first consultant radiographers in the country and know the excitement that comes with seeing innovative new technologies or treatments make a difference for patients – and for us.

Technology is particularly important in such a role. It’s the most immediate means of making patient care faster, smoother, and more accurate – all of which help to improve the outcomes for patients themselves. A lack of access or funding for technology can thus become a real frustration; recent research from Hyland has found that 72% of nurses think it’s “ridiculous my organisation still relies on paper documents”, for example. Outdated tools are holding them back.

At Hyland, I’m able to straddle the gap between technology and healthcare, helping to plan and execute the strategies that empower healthcare professionals and then making a data-based justification for their decisions. The right technology at the right time can make an incredible difference to businesses, and it’s immensely satisfying to find that sweet spot.

Each one teach one

Of course, leadership isn’t just about making decisions – it’s about empowering others to make them too, helping them develop into their best selves. Helping other women to succeed and overcome challenges is a duty for any leader serious about community and fairness.

Membership of an organisation like Chief – an exclusive community established to connect and support female executives – is one means of pursuing this. When you’re surrounded by exceptional women who are delivering meaningful change in their businesses and elevating one another to do the same, it’s hard not to feel incredibly optimistic for the generations to come.

My experience of connecting and collaborating with other women is one that’s more considerate, composed, and creative than everyday work. We take the time to explore each other’s ideas in more depth, and encourage one another to think outside of the box. It’s a fantastic environment from which to challenge the status quo.

Where things are heading

With all of these aspects in mind, it’s both heartening and frustrating to see the state of female leadership in healthcare slowly improve.

McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report was updated last year, and indicates that just 32% of C-level executives in the healthcare are women – just 4% of whom are women of colour. Holoniq’s 2024 Global State of Women’s Leadership report suggests a 24% pay gap in the sector; less than 15% of Fortune 500 healthcare companies are held by women.

We can’t not involve women in solving that problem. That’s particularly true given that women dominate the numbers in less senior roles – they’re earning their experience and opinions on the ground, where real and important work is taking place every day.

As an industry, the healthcare sector needs to be able to rely on the expertise, experience, and perspective of women. Doing so not only makes the final result better, but fairer.

Being able to rely on more people to provide the answers or results you need is inclusive, fostering more space and opportunity to innovate and improve, and accommodating more perspectives and ideas. We’re at our best when we can create freely – and the more minds involved in that process, the more likely we are to succeed.


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